The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced that driving tests due to take place from today (March 19) will be postponed due to the unfolding outbreak of Covid-19.
Northern Ireland will have its last driving tests today before a three month suspension of exams. Alternative dates and refunds have been made available to those who had exams booked in. Tests will provisionally resume on June 22.
According to the Derry Journal, Northern Ireland’s Driver & Vehicle Agency and Infrastructure Minister Mallon said that steps were being made to look after the financial well being of driving instructors.
“Driving examiners are in close proximity to members of the public, in a confined space, for up to 40 minutes on each driving test,” she said.
“I know this is a time of great uncertainty for people and I want to assure affected staff that they will continue to be paid a salary. We will also continue to engage with the local sector and keep them informed as the situation evolves.”
COVID-19 Update:From 5pm today all driving tests are suspended for 3 months.I have taken this decision based on social distancing advice to protect staff & public.Staff will continue to be paid, customers refunded & exceptional arrangements made for emergency & essential services
— Nichola Mallon (@NicholaMallon) March 19, 2020
Only two days of tests have been postponed officially in England, possibly because a lockdown by the government from next week will encompass driving tests. The DVSA may have implemented rules to cover the period before wider government policy comes into effect.
Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at Bill Plant Driving School, commented: “We’re sure that there are many test-ready Britons around the UK that are going to be disappointed by this news, however we all need to respect the unprecedented measures set by the DVSA via Government advice due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
“We trust the DVSA will take this time to consider their ongoing approach to driving tests…and ensuring that the safety of the students, driving instructors and examiners is at the forefront of everything that happens.”
He added that students could use the time to practice for rearranged tests.
Tests were suspended from last Saturday in the Republic of Ireland by the country’s Road Safety Authority. Exams are due to resume on March 29, but this date will be kept under review.
The prospect of cancelled tests and lessons will no doubt worry driving instructors, who by large are self employed. Those who work for franchises often have to pay fees for their cars which can amount to hundreds of pounds per week.
The DVSA has emphasised that if you are showing any symptoms of the coronavirus you should not attend your driving test.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have vowed to deliver “whatever it takes” to ensure that no British businesses have to close due to coronavirus, though many companies have already announced shutdowns or closures, including British car plants. Sunak has made £350bn available in loans and says more will be made available if necessary. Grants of £10,000 are being made available for the smallest businesses.