Michael Gove has warned the public to limit daily walks to a maximum of an hour ahead of a tightening up of rules on the national lockdown. Joggers, he said, should limit their runs to 30 minutes.
Mr Gove, a Cabinet minister and one of the prime minister’s most trusted aides, accepted the UK was facing a “significant period” in lockdown. He did not dispute the latest expert guidance suggesting the measures could remain in place until June.
The prospect of further draconian rules comes amid concern of a former police chief that officers in some parts of the UK are “way over the top” in enforcing the coronavirus lockdown. The former senior officer, who did not wish to be named, said it was ‘ludicrous’ that a force had sent up a drone to spy on dog walkers in the Peak District and warned people not to drive in case they had a crash.
Police continued to make arrests and issue fines for breaches of coronavirus rules – including breaking up a karaoke party in Derby – while Britain’s National Parks issued a joint statement telling the public “to stay at home and help stop the spread of Covid-19”.
Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said that although “it depends on each individual’s fitness… I would have thought that for most people a walk of up to an hour or a run of 30 minutes, or a cycle ride of between that is appropriate”.
Mr Gove acknowledged in a television interview the scale of the “sacrifice” but said he could not make “an accurate prediction” on how long it must be endured. Boris Johnson is writing to every home in the country with a warning of stricter measures to come.
Mr Gove declined to say what the tougher rules could be – but the public could find itself confined to their homes except for brief exercise and essential food shopping.
Mr Gove refused to be drawn on one key scientist’s estimate of June to relax the lockdown, adding: “I can’t make an accurate prediction, but everyone does have to prepare for a significant period when these measures are still in place.”
The prospect of a lengthy and more rigorous lockdown prompted one former senior officer to urge police to show ‘common sense’. The former chief said: “Some of the policing of coronavirus has been way over the top. People out walking in the countryside in quiet areas is the best thing they can do. This is clearly serious but one or two senior officers are enjoying this a little too much.”
Some forces have set up roadblocks to prevent daytrippers driving to the countryside and in Derbyshire, the force drone unit was deployed to spy on dog walkers on a near empty Peak District hillside.
The National Police Chiefs Council said that no figures were yet available for the number of on the spot fines issued for breaches of the emergency coronavirus laws. Derbyshire Police said it had broken up a karaoke party at a house in a city suburb. The force said in a statement on Twitter: “Officers have just attended an address in absolute shock to find 25 adults and children having a massive party with speakers and karaoke. Everyone dispersed and hosts dealt with. It is clear people are still having complete disregard for the Government advice and rules.”
In Leeds, a 13-year-old boy was arrested and taken into custody for breaking the new coronavirus lockdown laws after he refused to give his name to police. He was detained under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020, which gives police the power to order members of the public to go home or leave an area.
Cleveland Police said officers had issued eight fixed penalty notices to people not complying with Government regulations over the past two days.
Cumbria Police, which has tried to block access to the Lake District, investigated four people for coronavirus breaches, including a 24-year-old man who could give police “no reason” for being in Whitehaven town centre over the weekend and three men in Carlisle hosting a house party.