Don’t leave home just to sit on a park bench, No 10 says

Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor
·2-min read

Sitting on a park bench for a “short pause” during exercise is reasonable, but leaving the home just to sit in public is unlawful under coronavirus rules, Downing Street has clarified.

No 10 drew criticism earlier on Monday after the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was unable to confirm if a single person could sit down on a bench under the restrictions.

But a Government source has now clarified that while a “short pause during the course of exercise would be reasonable”, it would be “unlawful to leave the house just to sit in public”.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman was pressed on the restrictions during a Westminster briefing on Monday afternoon.

He was also asked whether people can consume takeaway teas or coffees in public – and said that “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.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock later stressed that people should stay two metres apart if going for a walk with another person.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during the latest Downing Street briefing
Health Secretary Matt Hancock during the latest Downing Street briefing (Alastair Grant/PA)

He told a Downing Street press conference: “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.”

Police have pledged to step up action against people they considered to be flouting Covid restrictions.

However, Derbyshire Police apologised and rescinded £200 fines issued to two women who travelled to a reservoir for a walk around five miles from their homes.

The force previously described Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore’s trip as “clearly not in the spirit of the national effort” to reduce travel and the possible spread of coronavirus.