Michael Gove has apologised for wrongly suggesting that people would be able to play singles tennis or golf in pairs during England’s impending national lockdown.
Downing Street has insisted it will not change direction over the decision to close golf courses and tennis clubs when new measures are introduced from Thursday.
But during an online question and answer session with his constituents on Monday, the MP for Surrey Heath sparked confusion when he suggested it would be possible to play singles tennis.
The Cabinet Office minister also said “we are looking at” allowing people to play golf with one other person, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson so far resisting calls for golf courses to remain open.
Asked if doubles tennis can continue, Mr Gove said: “The key thing here, I think, is that you will probably be able to continue to play singles tennis at the moment.
“The guidance that we have is that if people are appropriately socially distanced, they can take exercise with one other person. That’s why I mentioned golf earlier.
“Golf clubs, club houses, they will have to be closed, but we are looking at allowing people to play on golf courses with one other appropriately distanced.”
On Tuesday morning, Mr Gove apologised for the comments on Twitter, including a link to the Government guidance.
“My apologies, I got this wrong,” he said. “Outdoor leisure facilities including tennis courts and golf courses will be closed from Thursday.”
Mr Johnson was asked in the House of Commons on Monday whether golf courses would be exempted from the new restrictions.
“I must apologise to my honourable friend for not being able to offer the House a huge list of exemptions to the rules we’ve set out,” the Prime Minister said.
“Because once you unpick at one thing alas the effectiveness of the whole package is compromised.
“That’s why I want everyone to work together for the next four weeks to get the R rate under control so that we can open things up again in time for December.”