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Prime minister Boris Johnson announced a three-tier coronavirus lockdown system for England while other regions have different restrictions and measures in place. Image: HM Government.

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A coronavirus ‘firebreak’ will run in Wales, set to end on November 9.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said “auction houses can only trade online” during this period, while art and antiques shops and galleries must close.

Rogers Jones in Cardiff and Colwyn Bay has adjusted accordingly.

Auctioneer Ben Rogers Jones told ATG: “We have rescheduled our Interiors auction in Cardiff for a week later (now November 13), to give more time for people to view by appointment. But other than that we are continuing as normal within the current guidelines.”

‘No public access’

Nigel Hodson, managing principal at Peter Francis in Carmarthen, said the firm has closed its saleroom “with no public access, no house visits and no collections for the next two weeks”.

While this week’s general sale will be online only, the auction house expects to hold its November 11 Fine Sale as planned. Late-evening viewings will be offered if required once the lockdown period is over.

Hodson added: “We have spoken with local Trading Standards and we were reassured that what we are planning is acceptable as the premises are closed to the public and those that are working cannot do so practically from home. However, I, for one, can’t wait to get folk back in for a bit of banter. Live platforms are a useful tool but nothing beats a busy day in the saleroom on auction day. I do hope we have more soon.”

The latest regulations in Northern Ireland run for four weeks from October 16.

Although museums and galleries have to close, the retail sector does not, so dealers’ shops, antiques centres and auction houses can remain open. However, fairs and other events are likely to be on hold. Karl Bennett, managing director at Bloomfield Auctions in Belfast, said: “To date the new ‘circuit breaker’ as it is called has not impacted massively on viewing days or auction nights.

“We just have to limit numbers to 15 at any one time and to ensure that everyone is wearing masks and using hand sanitiser. We are, where possible, directing more people to online, but there are still many who like to visit the auction rooms.”

In the Republic of Ireland, a new lockdown began on October 21 and is due to run for six weeks with a review after four. Currently fairs and markets, auction houses, shops and galleries must close their premises to the public. However, online trading is permitted.

November sales on hold

James O’Halloran, managing director at Adam’s in Dublin, said: “We have been running very successful live online auctions with no auction-day attendees for the last couple of weeks but we have had in-person viewing, albeit with greatly reduced numbers.

“We will postpone all November auctions until December when, hopefully, we can have in-person viewing. Our 3D viewing video has proved very popular and useful with our clients.

“It’s such a challenge but we’re so lucky to be able to do as much as we are. There are so many other businesses that have been decimated. Bring on the vaccine!”

Ian Whyte, managing director of Whyte’s in Dublin, added: “We can offer online auctions with click & collect service but taking in consignments and onsite valuations are not allowed. We are hoping to hold virtual auctions on December 7 and 14 – internet, phones and absentee bids but no bums on seats!”

Across England and Scotland regions in high alert and very high alert level areas are subject to increased restrictions but auction houses and shops will be able to continue to trade as before.

On October 22 chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled an increased support package for workers hit by Covid restrictions, the Job Support Scheme (JSS), to replace the furlough in November.