Go walking with a friend for exercise but don’t sit down with them, Michael Gove tells public at start of new lockdown

‘One of the things that we do want to stop is the idea of people congregating or socialising outside’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 05 January 2021 12:05
Michael Gove says people can walk with a friend but can't sit down with them

People can go walking with a friend but cannot sit down with them for more than a very short rest, the public has been told.

Michael Gove signalled the fresh lockdown would involve outdoor restrictions more like the first in March, than the second in November – although it is unclear how strongly they will be enforced.

Asked if people could “meet a friend and go for a walk together”, the Cabinet Office minister replied: “Yes, provided you maintain social distance and provided that it is exercise.”

But he added: “One of the things that we do want to stop is the idea of people essentially congregating or socialising outside.”

Asked if that meant “don’t sit down together, otherwise it no longer counts as exercise”, Mr Gove agreed those were the new rules.

“Yes. I think, inevitably, it may be the case that for a second someone will want to pause and rest in the course of exercise,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But we're anxious to make sure that people exercise common sense and clear messages – do stay at home, of course exercise once a day, but also do everything possible to restrict social contact.

“As the health secretary has said, if people behave as though they were already infected then we are all better protected.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced England would enter its third national lockdown on 6 January during a televised address from Downing Street on Monday evening.

Under the new lockdown rules, people in England can leave home to exercise but must limit it to once a day and should not travel outside their local area. The rules do not include any specific time limit on how long the one form of exercise lasts for.  

You can exercise alone, with your household, support bubble or childcare bubble, or, when on your own, with one person from another household.  

The two-metre social distancing rule must be followed while around anyone not in your household or support bubble. Where this is not possible, stay one metre apart and take extra precautions such as wearing a face covering.  

Prime minister Boris Johnson announces a third national lockdown for England during a televised address from No 10

Exercise is permitted in public outdoor places, including parks, beaches, the countryside, forests, public gardens and the grounds of heritage sites.  

Outdoor playgrounds will remain open during this lockdown, however outdoor sports venues, including tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools, must close.  

The government states you can only leave home to exercise and not for recreation or leisure activities such as a picnic or social meeting.  

The rules are slightly different for elite sportspeople, who are allowed to train and compete at indoor and outdoor sports facilities where necessary. 

Mr Gove suggested the new lockdown will continue until March and that some restrictions will stay in place even longer.

Just hours after Boris Johnson promised a mid-February review point, his Cabinet ally warned the public to expect the curbs to remain for longer

“Nobody can predict with accuracy exactly what we will be able to relax and when,” Mr Gove said.

“I think it's right to say that, as we enter March, we should be able to lift some of these restrictions but not necessarily all.”

Mr Gove also confirmed this summer’s GCSE and A-level exams would be cancelled.

“Obviously we can't have A-levels, GCSEs or B-techs in the way that we have had them in the past,” he told Sky News, adding “but there are ways of ensuring that we can assess the work that students have done, give them a fair recognition of that”.

“It is critically important that parents and students recognise that their work will be recognised at the end of this year – it is not the case that anyone would, or anyone would want to, down tools as it were,” he said.

And he added, to the BBC: “Whether or not they are moderated in a particular fashion, by particular awarding bodies or others, is a delicate process.”

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