Motorists driving a vehicle with an MOT that expires after March 30 will get an automatic six-month extension on it.

The move was announced this morning by the Department for Transport (DfT) as the government urges the public to stay at home and only leave if it’s essential in a bid to curb the escalating Covid-19 epidemic.

The six-month exemption applies to all cars, vans and motorbikes needing an MOT after March 30, with the legislation changing on that date with immediate effect. Motorists using their cars before then will still need to ensure that their vehicle is tested if they are going to continue using it.

Despite the six-month extension, motorists will need to keep their car in a roadworthy condition throughout the exemption period, and those driving unsafe vehicles can still be prosecuted. Essential checks – including checking tyre pressures, tread depths and fluid levels under the bonnet – should still be carried out to ensure maximum vehicle safety.

However, while MOTs will be extended, garages can remain open for essential repair work.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We must ensure those on the frontline of helping the nation combat Covid-19 are able to do so.

“Allowing this temporary exemption from vehicle testing will enable vital services such as deliveries to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people get essential food and medicine. Safety is key, which is why garages will remain open for essential repair work.”

The DfT has said that those motorists who are currently self-isolating won’t be penalised if they can’t get their MOT tested ahead of that date, and is working with insurers and the police to find a solution. No details have yet been announced, though.