People can take a walk for seven miles from their home but shouldn’t push the boundaries around the exercise rule, the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday.
“We’ve been seeing large groups, and that is not acceptable,” he said, after being asked to clarify if people are allowed to walk in the park with a friend and get a cup of coffee.
“This is one of those rules where if too many people keep breaking this rule, then we are going to have to look at it, but I don’t want to do that,” Hancock said, since walking with a friend is the only social contact some people can get.
“And it’s very important that people don’t, as I say, flex and try to push the boundaries of it,” he said.
“If you went for a long walk and ended up seven miles away from home, that is okay. But you should stay local, you should not go from one side of the country to another, potentially taking the virus with you, because remember, one in three people who have the virus don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms, and yet still pass it on.”
In a statement before the Q&A, Hancock said the government will not rule out the possibility of bringing in further restrictions.
“But it’s your actions now that can make a difference. Stay at home. And please reduce all social contact that is not absolutely strictly necessary. That’s what’s needed,” he said. “Act like you have the virus.”
On Jan 6, the first day of the latest national lockdown, two women were issued with a £200 ($270) fixed penalty notice (FPN) each when they arrived at Foremark Reservoir for a walk.
The women, Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, both 27, drove five miles in separate cars to the beauty spot in Derbyshire from neighbouring Leicestershire, where they live.
The police also told the women that the takeaway coffees they had bought on the way were considered an illegal picnic.
Derbyshire police on Monday evening said the FPNs have now been withdrawn after a review was completed.
Chief Constable Rachel Swann said Derbyshire police had notified the women and apologised for any concern caused, while defending the officers’ intention to encourage people to stay local.
“At present there is no clear limit as to how far people can travel to exercise, but Government guidance strongly requests people do not leave their local area.”
Swann said she would expect officers to “continue to take the four Es approach; to engage, explain, encourage, and enforce, to help us to keep them and their communities safe.”