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The decision to ban words associated with an illness or disease is unique in the UK but follows a similar ruling in Australia. A BMW was stopped at Adelaide Airport with a “COVID19” number plate last year after prompting outrage.
The new DVLA decision means plates even closely associated with the disease will not be allowed such as “COV1D” or “COV111D”.
The DVLA regularly bans number plates from public use but these are only designs which contain rude phrases or swear words.
The DVLA said: “We suppress any registration number combinations that may cause offence, embarrassment or are in poor taste.
“This includes combinations that could be interpreted as referring to Covid-19.”
However, number plates directly relating to the NHS and healthcare workers has dramatically increased as drivers are desperate to show their support for staff.
Jason Wilkes, founder and chief executive at CarReg said NHS related plates have become similar to “collector’s items” among road users.
One plate which reads “WHOS NHS” is currently on sale for up to £11,000 after a recent surge in popularity.
He said: “Number plate buyers bored at home during lockdowns have really caught on to buying unique registrations.
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“Backed by a massive government campaign, NHS plates are now collectors’ items and have a real value.
“The entire number plate reseller market is ablaze.”
Plates that were made popular amid the pandemic have also seen a surge in demand with a “PPE1” design now available for up to £25,000.
“1 NHS” is also a highly sought after design and is set to hit the hammer at a future auction.
There has been no estimated value on the new auction but it’s expected to sell for up to six figures.
The previous buyer is believed to have nid £120,000 for the design before he eventually pulled out.
The DVLA said: “1 NHS was available to buy in our July 2020 auction and the buyer cancelled the sale.
“As the number has not been sold it will be offered again at a future auction.”
The agency added they had seen a 40 percent increase in the number of personalised registration plates bought last year as drivers splashed lockdown savings.
It is estimated the sale of private number plates brings in around £11.56million to the Treasury each year.
Nearly six million plates have been sold to road users over the past 30 years, generating up to £2billion since its launch.
A recent survey found nine percent of road users would buy a private registration plate because of a personal connection, name or initial.
Meanwhile, six percent said they would buy a plate for their business while 17 percent purchased designs as an investment.
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