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Coronavirus: Exercise out of the home ‘could be banned’ if people flout rules

Exercise outside the home could be banned if people ignore coronavirus social distancing rules, the UK health secretary has warned.

Government guidance says people should only exercise once a day - alone or with those they live with (Picture by Reuters)
Government guidance says people should only exercise once a day – alone or with those they live with (Picture by Reuters)

Matt Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the government would “take action” if needed to control the virus.

It comes after reports of groups of people gathering in parks during sunny weather this weekend.

Meanwhile, a further 555 people have died with the virus in England, 12 more in Wales and seven in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hancock said: “If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home, then you’ve got to follow the rules.”

The health secretary said the vast majority were sticking to the guidelines, adding: “Let’s not have a minority spoil it for everybody.”

He said the timing of restrictions being lifted would depend on how people behave, adding that “the more people stay at home the less the virus will spread”.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock. (Photo: Flickr/Number 10)
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock. (Photo: Flickr/Number 10)

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge earlier, Mr Hancock said sunbathing in public spaces was against the government’s coronavirus social distancing rules.

It comes as Brockwell Park in Lambeth was forced to close on Sunday after more than 3,000 people spent the day there sunbathing or in large groups on Saturday.

There were similar scenes on Primrose Hill in Camden on Saturday, when police moved on more than 100 people.

But local officers tweeted to say thank you after finding far fewer crowds in the area on Sunday.

And Brighton beach was nearly deserted on Sunday, following a warning by Brighton and Hove City Council that too many people were meeting up with friends on the seafront.

Meanwhile, two people have been summoned to attend court after having a barbecue on Hove beach, Sussex Police said.

The Met Office said some parts of the UK could see temperatures of up to 21C on Sunday, with blue skies and sunshine forecast for much of the day across the country.

Restrictions state that everybody must stay at home where possible, and only leave if they have a “reasonable excuse”, such as exercise or shopping for basic necessities.

Newly elected Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sophy Ridge it was “all right for people who have got big houses and huge back gardens” to tell sunbathers observing social distancing to stop doing so.

“If you’re stuck in inadequate accommodation… and you’re all on top of each other, quite literally, then I think people should do social distancing and should keep their distance, but also be reasonable and proportionate about that,” she said.

Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, has called for a rota for the use of public parks, writing on Twitter that families in flats with young children need green spaces during the lockdown.

Mr Hancock’s warning came ahead of the Queen’s address to the nation on Sunday, in which she will stress the value of self-discipline and resolve during the coronavirus pandemic.

Newly elected Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sophy Ridge it was “all right for people who have got big houses and huge back gardens” to tell sunbathers observing social distancing to stop doing so.

“If you’re stuck in inadequate accommodation… and you’re all on top of each other, quite literally, then I think people should do social distancing and should keep their distance, but also be reasonable and proportionate about that,” she said.

Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, has called for a rota for the use of public parks, writing on Twitter that families in flats with young children need green spaces during the lockdown.

Mr Hancock’s warning came ahead of the Queen’s address to the nation on Sunday, in which she will stress the value of self-discipline and resolve during the coronavirus pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who remains in self-isolation in Downing Street after testing positive for coronavirus, continues to have a high temperature but is “OK”, Mr Hancock said
  • The new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has accused the government of making “serious mistakes” in its response to the coronavirus
  • Scotland’s chief medical officer has apologised “unreservedly” for visiting her second home in Fife during the lockdown
  • The culture secretary is planning to hold virtual meetings with tech firms over their response to conspiracy theories linking 5G networks to the pandemic
  • The Foreign Office said it is now working with 14 commercial airlines to help thousands of Britons still stranded abroad amid the pandemic, with seven charter flights to bring travellers home from India in the coming week
  • Convenience stores on the outskirts of towns and in rural areas are experiencing a surge in sales – as people turn to them for essentials during the lockdown
  • A drive-through coronavirus testing centre for frontline NHS staff is due to open at Glasgow Airport’s long-stay car park on Sunday afternoon
  • A nursing assistant has died after looking after coronavirus patients at Watford General Hospital in Hertfordshire
  • Lord Bath of Longleat has died at the age of 89 after contracting coronavirus
  • The owner of London’s ExCel centre has U-turned on charging the NHS to use the site as a hospital

Mr Hancock said the physical and mental health benefits of exercise were “really important”, and that he did not want to remove exercise as a reason to leave home.

But he added: “If the result of that is that too many people go out and flout the other rules because they say ‘well if I can exercise then it’s fine for me to do other things’ then I’m afraid we will have to take action.”

New Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party would support the government it if decides to toughen lockdown measures.

“We’ve got to get through this and every time people break the guidance from the government they put other people at risk,” he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his thanks to “everyone who is saving lives by staying at home this weekend”.

“I know it’s tough, but if we all work together and follow the guidance we will beat coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Hancock said that the number of ventilators needed over the coming weeks will be 18,000, and that currently there are between 9,000 and 10,000 within the NHS.

When asked about the number of nurses that had died of coronavirus, Mr Hancock said the latest figure was three deaths.

Exit strategy

Also on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London said he could not predict when the lockdown would be lifted.

He said there was “no point” in releasing the lockdown “at a point where case numbers are still high and will resurge even faster than we have seen before.”

Prof Ferguson added: “We want case numbers to get to a low point where we can start substituting other measures for the most intrusive and economically costly aspects of the current lockdown.

“Almost certainly those additional measures will involve massively ramped-up testing, going back to trying to identify contacts of cases and stopping chains of transmission.

“That can only feasibly be done when we have many fewer cases per day than we have at the moment.” BBC News

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