Two weeks into the second lockdown in England we finally have some specific guidance on whether fenestration showrooms can remain open or have to close. The guidance at the start of the lockdown was more vague than the update issued today, where it mentioned car showrooms as an example of something that had to close. But as with most things when left vague, there appeared to movement in the wording.

As of today however it appears the Government has made itself clearer, and for glazing industry showrooms it means a period of closure.

New guidance

I was informed on social media earlier on in the day that new guidance had been issued by the Government. You can read the entire document here. But below is the passage that matters to fenestration:

Any business or venue that provides goods for sale or hire and is not listed above must close (other than where there is an explicit exemption for a specific purpose, as set out below). They may continue offering delivery and click-and-collect services (where items are pre-ordered and collected without entering the premises). People can also leave home to collect or return orders from these businesses.

These closures include, but are not limited to, the following premises:

  • clothing stores and tailors
  • homeware stores (such as furniture and carpet retailers)
  • showrooms open to the public for products used in homes, including bathrooms, kitchens and glazing
  • tobacco and vape shops
  • electronic goods and mobile phone shops
  • charity shops
  • antique stores and photography studios
  • markets (except livestock markets or stalls which fall under the list of essential businesses above, for example those selling food or hardware)
  • car and other vehicle showrooms and other premises, including outdoor areas, used for the sale or hire of caravans, boats or any vehicle which can be propelled by mechanical means. However taxi or vehicle hire businesses can continue. For example a customer could order a rental vehicle online and collect it in person.
  • car washes.
  • auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment)
  • homeopathic and naturopathic medicine, traditional chinese medicine, and ayurveda

The above is quite specific guidance, something we’re not used to previously as with the other lockdowns. Before this guidance dropped it did appear that many showrooms decided to close, likely due to the specific mention of car showrooms in the previous version of the guidance. The above however makes it clear that showrooms in our sector have to close until at least the end of lockdown which is due to expire on December 2nd.

What happens next?

Legally the second lockdown is due to expire on December 2nd. That, of course, means very little as it has been long signposted that MPs will get a vote instantly on what measures should replace the lockdown that England is currently in.

Ministers have been laying the groundwork in their language to interviewers that whilst the number of cases and deaths remains this high there is likely to be very little easing of restrictions come early December. So what might happen as we enter the final month of the year?

There has been widespread talk of Tier 4 in recent days. It does appear that England will revert back to the Tier system of restrictions after the lockdown ends, but with an additional higher Tier 4 being added. I have looked at what that might entail and in short it looks very much like the lockdown that we’re in now. SAGE has warned that too much lifting on December 2nd of restrictions with cases still likely to be above manageable levels will result in a huge spike near Christmas time. After ignoring SAGE’s request of a lockdown in September, resulting in the position we’re in now, they’re unlikely to ignore them again.

In the past week or so we have had good news from Pfizer and Moderna that their vaccines appear to be highly effective, which is the first genuine bits of light at the end of the tunnel. Despite this though, we’re still in this fight for months, perhaps most of 2021, as any plan to mass vaccinate the population will be a mammoth task. Restrictions are likely to continue into the Spring of 2021, where perhaps progress might see those peeled away in stages. The Government has just announced plans to build two new mega-labs in the early part of next year to boost testing capacity. A clear sign that things won’t be over by early next year.

Indeed, against the backdrop of the positive vaccine news, many parts of Europe and the US have begun enforcing stricter lockdown restrictions to attempt to curb a second wave that continues to ravage countries. Today, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced 11 local authority areas would be placed into Tier 4 restrictions, the highest in Scotland, due to what she described as stubbornly high case rates.

So although England’s lockdown officially comes to an end in a couple of weeks, I think we can expect replacement restrictions which look a lot like the ones we have right now.

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