The government is considering stricter tier structures for the coming weeks as the number of Coronavirus infections continues to rise.
There is concern amongst some agents that a new tier 5 - being considered by the Westminster government - or even a beefed up tier 4 could see agencies, property viewings and house moves again shut down as was the case last spring.
"It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that may be tougher. I'm fully reconciled to that. I think the whole country is fully reconciled to that” says Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
One agency - Harrison Homes in Kent - voluntarily suspended viewings in mid-December even though these are allowed under the tier 4 restrictions operating in that part of England.
Chris Ellis, managing director of Harrisons Homes, said at the time: “How can I say to my team that they cannot see their family over Christmas, yet they can take people out on viewings?”
Under current tier 4 rules, non-essential retail units are closed but the official guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says: “You can still move home. People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary. Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work.”
More specifically, the guidance says agents should ask clients whether they have shown symptoms or have been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any viewing or visits to offices; if viewings are conducted they should be done under strict guidance including the wearing of face coverings and with agents not allowed to drive clients to properties.
COVID-19 cases across the UK are at record levels and are increasing as a new, more transmissible variant that is affecting more children than before, spreads.
The Scottish Parliament is being recalled to consider further restrictions in that country, which are to be revealed later today.
Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wants an immediate lockdown to include all housing market activity.
“The virus is clearly out of control. There’s no good the prime minister hinting that further restrictions are coming into place in a week, or two or three. That delay has been the source of so many problems. So, I say, bring in those restrictions now, national restrictions, within the next 24 hours. That has to be the first step to controlling the virus” says Starmer.
And one local authority in England is calling for a national lockdown of the kind implemented in spring last year, with local housing market activity suspended.
A statement from the council leaders in Liverpool - where Covid infections have almost tripled in frequency in the past two weeks - says; "The stark reality is that today this virulent new strain of the virus is very much on the rise and we need to act now to prevent a crisis that will unleash even more pain and anguish.
"We need the government to listen to those at the frontline, both in our hospitals and frontline services. We as a nation can cope with a lockdown. We have before and we can again. The quicker we move into one now, the more lives will be saved and the quicker a recovery will be. Yes, there will be pain for our retail and hospitality sectors, but they want long term security and a strong recovery and a lockdown provides both.”
Here is the official government guidance for agents in tier 4 areas, in full.