Government issues ‘stay local’ advice over coronavirus exercise ‘confusion’
Government advice to tackle the coronavirus outbreak has been clarified to urge people to “stay local” when exercising ahead of the first weekend in lockdown.
After police warned of “confusion” over where people can visit, ministers updated guidance to urge the public to only use “open spaces” near their homes where possible.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week ordered the public to stay home other than for essential travel and for a once-daily exercise to help ease the strain on the NHS in the fight against Covid-19.
Ahead of a major test for social distancing on Saturday, the Environment Department updated its guidance on how to stay safe when exercising.
The public should “stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible”, it said, adding: “Do not travel unnecessarily.”
And people should keep at least two metres from anyone they do not live with when out exercising.
Earlier Staffordshire Police acknowledged there had been “some confusion” as to where they are allowed to visit – as a neighbouring force defended its use of drones to deter people visiting the Peak District.
Derbyshire Police attracted criticism from some quarters after posting footage shot by its drone, drawing attention to what it said were clearly unnecessary journeys.
Meanwhile, Avon and Somerset Police said such non-essential travel included “driving to local beauty spots to do exercise”.
Elsewhere, Cumbria Police warned drivers would face fines as they “closed” the Lake District, with North Yorkshire Police also telling people to stay away from beauty spots.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for charging and out of court disposals, Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen, also urged people to “be sensible”.
She said: “There isn’t anything definitive in the legislation that talks about ‘can you get in a car to drive to a place to go and do your exercise’.
“It just gives the guidance that we’re giving, that can we all be really sensible about this.”
In a statement, a Staffordshire Police spokesman said: “There has been some confusion around whether people can visit and exercise in the Staffordshire countryside, including Cannock Chase, the Roaches and other country parks.
“We are asking people not to visit these areas and to stay close to home to exercise once a day.”
Asking people to maintain social distancing, he added: “We understand that there are small numbers of local people who live within these immediate areas who may continue to walk dogs and exercise, but cars should only be used for essential journeys and not to travel somewhere to exercise.
“It is important that groups of people avoid congregating at areas such as car parks or popular beauty spots as it is impossible to stay more than two metres apart from others – which is critical to stop the spread of the virus.”
Urging people to support the NHS and abide by the lockdown, the force said: “The beautiful Staffordshire countryside will still be there in a few weeks for us all to enjoy.”
Avon and Somerset Police said it would be leafleting beauty spot visitors.
A force spokesman added: “People should not be doing any unnecessary journeys and that includes driving to local beauty spots to do exercise.
“Our officers will be giving out flyers and public information leaflets at popular beauty spots to remind people of their responsibilities during this public health crisis.
“We would urge people not to put the safety of emergency service workers at any greater risk by flouting these measures.
“We’re all in this together and together we can make sure public safety is at the top of all our priority lists.”