As lockdown is relaxed, Government clarifies new guidance on spending time outdoors

The River Great Ouse, Bedford: View from Newnham Bridge.
The River Great Ouse, Bedford: View from Newnham Bridge.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday, lockdown rules are being relaxed, permitting people in England greater freedom to spend time outdoors.

After some confusion arose following the announcement, the Government has published guidelines outlining the new rules – and increased fines for non-compliance.

From Wednesday 13 May:

  • You will be able to go to parks and beaches to sunbathe, have a picnic and go fishing
  • Outdoor sports courts can reopen, including tennis and basketball courts as well as golf courses
  • You will also be able to see one person from another household, as long as they follow social distance guidance

The new guidelines follow scientific advice that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside. All of the new regulations are subject to social distancing rules.

‘Non-compliance’ fines have been increased, and from today will now start at £100, which will be lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days. This will double on each further repeat offence up to £3,200.

From today, you and members of  your households can relax in the park, sunbathe, go for a picnic and go fishing.

You will also be able to spend time with one member of another household, one-on-one, as long as they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines at all times, staying two metres apart.

Outdoor sports facilities can reopen including outdoor tennis courts, golf clubs and basketball courts meaning that people can play a greater range of sport.

You can either take part in sports alone, with your household or one other person, while adhering to social distancing.

cycling bikesGuidance that said people could only go out to exercise once a day have also been removed.

Although people will also be able to travel further to enjoy their time outside, the advice remains that everybody should continue to avoid public transport other than for essential journeys.

Therefore, these journeys should only be made by cycling, walking or driving in a private vehicle.

You should check in advance of visiting places like National Parks and beaches to make sure they are prepared for visitors.

It remains the case that you cannot gather with more than one member of another household for example to play sports.

You also cannot:

  •  go on holiday
  •  visit and stay overnight at a holiday home or second home
  •  visit the homes of friends and family, unless it’s to help a vulnerable person, for medical reasons, or to take a child to another household with whom parental responsibilities are shared

The police will continue to use their common sense, discretion and experience when people are not following the guidelines.

As they have throughout, they will engage, explain, encourage and only as a last resort consider enforcement by way of fixed penalty notice.

Robert Jenrick MP
Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, announced the new guidelines today (13 May)

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said, “Spending time outdoors, exercising or just enjoying the countryside is essential for our physical health and wellbeing.

“The restrictions have impacted everyone, but particularly those without much living space or a garden.

“We want to make life as healthy, bearable and social as possible, whilst controlling the virus and saving lives.

“That is why we have worked to find safe ways to enable more people to spend more time outdoors.”

Culture Secretary Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP said, “Sport and exercise has huge benefits for our physical and mental health, which is why we need everyone to stay as active as possible.

“Allowing unlimited outdoor exercise will be welcome news to many, but it remains absolutely vital that everyone practices strict social distancing whilst playing sport to keep themselves and others safe.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Martin Hewitt said, “The efforts of the public mean police officers have rarely had to enforce the Government regulations so far.

“I am confident the vast majority will continue to do their bit and follow guidance in this next stage.

“We are all now able to spend much more time outdoors and each of us need to take responsibility for doing that within the social restrictions set out by the Government.

“Our approach will continue use common sense and discretion, and to engage, explain, encourage and, only as a last resort, enforce.”

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