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The official legislation for the upcoming lockdown was drawn up on November 3 and will be voted on in parliament before coming into force on November 5.

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The new coronavirus restrictions for England come into force on November 5 and antiques shops, centres, art galleries, auction houses and fairs and markets will have to close their premises to the public. 

However, operating online and by phone, and having staff on premises for collection and delivery will be allowed.

In a statement on November 3 responding to an enquiry from Antiques Trade Gazette the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) confirmed:

  1. Auction houses may trade online and can operate via click and collect or delivery. The only exception is for livestock and agricultural equipment auctions which can be open to the public.
  2. Where staff need to be present to package auctioned goods, it is clear that this cannot be done from home and they will be permitted to attend work premises to fulfil those duties. 
  3. Arts and antiques markets are non-essential retail and will have to close whether indoors or outdoors.

Many auction houses will continue to hold auctions as live online only with bidding via the internet, phone and commission.

This week lobbying to obtain clarification on the government’s position had been undertaken by BAMF (the British Art Market Federation), SOFAA (the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers) and Auction Technology Group, owner and publisher of Antiques Trade Gazette.

Galleries, shops and antiques centres will also have to close to the public as they are classed non-essential retail. They will be able to sell online and operate from their premises behind closed doors.

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During lockdown in November, art and antiques businesses will have to trade online.

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The clarification from DCMS, however, confirms the expected bad news for outdoor antiques fairs and markets some of which had been operating with Covid-secure procedures for some time. A small number of indoor fairs had also been operating on the basis that they were not taking place in venues on the previous banned list such as conference centres. These, too, will now have to be postponed.

The new national restrictions, announced on October 31, will begin on November 5 and run until at least December 2 in England. Parliament is voting today (Wednesday) on the new measures.

ATG has asked for further clarification regarding house visits from professionals (for matters such as valuations or house clearances) and the interpretation of the Statutory Instrument being presented to Parliament this afternoon.

Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have their own restrictions in place. Check the relevant devolved government websites for the latest information.