Downing Street contradicts Patel over ‘exercise alone’ advice

David Hughes, PA Political Editor
·2-min read

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been contradicted by Downing Street after saying people should exercise alone, despite the rules permitting activity with a friend.

The guidance makes clear that in England someone is allowed to exercise outdoors with one other person from a different household.

Asked whether the rules were clear, Ms Patel told ITV’s This Morning: “The clarity is exercising on your own and not socialising.”

She added: “The point to make about any exercise – yes, it should be local, people exercise differently.

“But exercise on your own and don’t use it for a social meeting.”

A woman jogging in Richmond Park, in south west London
Guidance makes clear that in England someone is allowed to exercise outdoors with one other person from a different household (Yui Mok/PA)

She said “cycling is fine, because you are on your own, you should not be cycling with other cyclists”.

Ms Patel continued: “Running, exactly in the same way because you are on your own, walking on your own.”

The guidance produced by the Government says people can exercise outdoors on their own, with their household or support bubble, in a childcare bubble where providing childcare or – if alone – with one person from another household.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve been clear that if people exercise they can do so with one other person from another household but we’re asking them to socially distance while they’re doing that.”

Asked whether those rules could be tightened, the spokesman pointed towards Boris Johnson saying earlier this week he will introduce tougher measures if necessary but that “early signs” of progress are being seen.

It is the second time this week that Ms Patel appears to have got the rules wrong.

At a Downing Street press conference, she said that “outdoor recreation” is permitted in a “restricted and limited way” – despite it being prohibited during the lockdown.

Aides said she misspoke and meant to say exercise rather than recreation.

On This Morning she said runners were not required to wear a mask after being shown footage of a Covid marshal stopping a jogger for breathing heavily.

“We are clear in the rules that you can exercise on a daily basis but not socialise,” she said.

“You can’t run and wear a mask, that’s not practical and that’s not sensible.”

The Home Secretary again defended Mr Johnson’s bike ride seven miles away from Downing Street in east London’s Olympic Park.

“If you are in a London borough, London boroughs are big places in terms of cycling and walking,” she said.

But when it was pointed out Mr Johnson went out of Westminster, Ms Patel said: “London is a big geography in terms of cycling – five miles, 10 miles – many people cycle big distances and that’s normal to them.”