Coronavirus: Lockdown should be 'opportunity' for UK population to get fit, says deputy chief medical officer

'Even though you may not have wished to jog along the street before, doing so now might be quite a relief and a positive thing for us all to do'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 26 March 2020 19:45 GMT

The British public could use their daily exercise session permitted during the coronavirus lockdown as an opportunity to get “super fit”, the deputy chief medical officer for England has suggested.

Appearing at a Downing Street press conference, Dr Jenny Harries also insisted the UK must “not take our foot off the pedal” as social distancing measures were beginning to have an impact on the spread of covid-19.

It comes after Boris Johnson imposed stringent restrictions on British public life to tackle the spread of the virus, instructing individuals to only leave their homes for specific reasons, including one form of daily exercise.

Dr Harries said she recognised there were “mental health risks” involved in the measures announced on Monday, particularly for those who have been asked by the government to remain indoors for 12 weeks. “That’s a really big ask,” she said.

But, she continued: “I might actually put a more optimistic view as well, which is if people are not going out to work and often that creates stress in terms of travel time. They have more free time to themselves.

“It might be the best opportunity the whole county has to say I’m going to use my one exercise session every day to ensure by the time this over I am super fit and so is my family.

“In fact, if you have something restricted it sometimes becomes quite a pleasurable event. Even though you may not have wished to jog along the street before, doing so now might be quite a relief and a positive thing for us all to do.”

Pressed on whether the lockdown could be “on or off” for a six month period, the deputy chief medical officer for England, she added: “We may see measures of lockdown going forward over the next six months, that would not be an implausible outcome. But I also said I think as we’re watching the curve it may be possible – definitely not now because we’re only just starting to get some benefit from the this.

“This issue here is, exactly as we have done all the way through with this, is watching the epidemiology and flexing those interventions at the right time, in the right place to deliver what we need.”

Speaking alongside Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, Dr Harries also told reporters they would not be surprised that she would not predict a precise time for the peak of the epidemic.

"And the reason for this is we are only just starting to see a bite in the interventions of social distancing that have been put in place, it would be far too early to predict that," she said.

"I think we are starting to see some helpful movement. What we would be looking for is a change in the slope, rather than it being a very steep curve upwards we would be looking for it to be a gentler slope but we must not take out foot off the pedal.

"People have been really co-operative and I think in the last few days the public have really understood that this is something very serious and their actions wherever they are will save lives. So, it's too early to say yet but starting to move in the right direction."

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