Will the UK go into full lockdown and could outdoor exercise be banned?

Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe
what full lockdown when will uk change rules - Matt Dunham/AP
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned outdoor exercise could be banned if individuals continue to ignore social distancing rules

His comments follow reports some members of the public flouted social distancing rules over the weekend, which saw temperatures rise to 21 degrees and thousands flock to beaches and parks. 

In some of London's most popular parks, the police were forced to separate large groups and order sunbathers to return home. Notably, Camden Town and Primrose Hill Police expressed their disappointment on Twitter after having to move on more than 100 people who had decided to catch up with friends over picnics. Some green spaces were forced to close due to overcrowding - such as Brockwell Park in South London which closed on Sunday after receiving more than 3,000 visitors on Saturday. 

The Health Secretary, who has himself recently recovered from coronavirus, warned: “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”. 

But how likely is it that the government will take this extreme step?

Despite the warnings, Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed there are no "imminent plans" to ramp up social distancing restrictions.

Mr Jenrick has advised parks should remain open unless it was "impossible" to maintain social distancing. He also confirmed he had spoken to some local councils.

"This is their decision, but I have asked them to be very judicious in taking that step and only to do that where they feel it is impossible to maintain social distancing rules within their parks or open spaces," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The minister also expressed his sympathies to those who relied on public parks as their only source of greenery. 

“It would be very unfortunate if we had to do so and make it harder for people, particularly people who live in flats in towns and cities, to get the exercise they deserve”. 

Mr Jenrick’s sentiments were shared by Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson chairman of the Local Government Association's culture, tourism and sport board. 

Police patrol Clissold Park in Stoke Newington to enforce the coronavirus lockdown. - Geoff Pugh/Geoff Pugh

"Councils know that parks are a lifeline for residents needing to get some exercise or fresh air and are great for physical and mental wellbeing."

"This is why councils want to keep parks open, but people need to follow the social distancing advice, otherwise councils will be reluctantly forced to close them as a last resort to help prevent the coronavirus spreading."

While this weekend has seen the police ramp up their presence, senior police officers have called into question the practicality of enforcing a ban on outdoor exercise

Jayne Meir, Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: "I can understand people are looking at further restrictions. It would be really difficult to police individuals on a daily basis. Everybody has to take personal responsibility for this. It’s a collective responsibility to stay at home."

As for now, the guidance remains unchanged  - exercise once a day, with members of your household and within areas local to you.