‘Don’t push it!’ Hancock threatens to take outdoor exercise away if ‘too many’ break rule

Matt Hancock warns that exercise rules might be tightened

The Health Secretary was pressed on whether people should exercise seven miles from their home – thought to be a reference to reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson cycled in east London at the weekend. Mr Hancock said: “Yes, you can go and exercise in the park with one other person, but only one other person.

“And we have been seeing large groups and that is not acceptable. And you should be two metres apart from the other person.

“If there are too many people breaking this rule then we are going to have to look at it.

“But, I don’t want to do that because, for many people being able to go for a walk with a friend, that often is their only social contact.

“It is OK to go for a walk with one other person around a park, but you should stay two metres apart from that other person.

“And, likewise, it is OK, if you went for a long walk and ended up seven miles away from home, that is OK.

“But, you should stay local, you should not go from one side of a country to another, potentially taking the virus with you.”

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Confusion over tough new Covid restrictions continued as Downing Street was unable to say whether sitting on a park bench is against the rules.

The comments by a No 10 spokesman came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled that tougher lockdown measures could be on the way.

However, Downing Street seemed unsure over what the current restrictions cover.

Asked if it is within coronavirus rules for a single person to sit on a park bench, a No 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “Let me take that one away and come back to you, on the … park bench question.”

Pressed over confusion on Covid rules regarding whether people can consume takeaway teas or coffees in public, the spokesman said: “Takeaways are allowed, or restaurants, or cafes are allowed to provide takeaways.

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“People are allowed to leave their homes if it’s for exercise, not socialising.”

Asked if someone can sit on a park bench and have a coffee under current coronavirus regulations, the spokesman said: “We have set out clearly the rules.

“We have been clear in the exemption for the stay-at-home rule: we are permitting one person to meet another person for exercise.”

Asked if walking outside with a takeaway tea is against the rules, the spokesman said: “Going for a walk, obviously, does count as exercise.”

Speaking during a visit to a vaccine centre in Bristol, the Prime Minister called for people to be aware of their surroundings when outside the home.

He said: “In supermarkets people need to be keeping their distance, making sure that they’re wearing masks, doing the right thing.

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“We need to enforce the rules in supermarkets.

“When people are getting takeaway drinks, in cafes, then they need to avoid spreading the disease there, avoid mingling too much.”

Mr Johnson stressed that “now is the moment for maximum vigilance” amid increasing calls for tougher lockdown restrictions.

The confusion arose after police appeared to step up action against people they considered to be flouting Covid restrictions.

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