'I got this wrong': Michael Gove apologises after causing confusion over tennis and golf Covid lockdown rules

Michael Gove sparked confusion with his comments on golf and tennis. Credit: PA

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove has apologised after sparking confusion over whether people will be allowed to play tennis and golf during England's month-long national Covid-19 lockdown.

In an online Q&A with constituents, Mr Gove said people would "probably" be able to play tennis after lockdown is enforced on Thursday, and he claimed the government was "looking at" how golf could be allowed.

Speaking to the Surrey Residents Network, the Surrey Heath MP said: "The key thing here, I think, is that you will probably be able to continue to play singles tennis at the moment.

"The guidance that we have is that if people are appropriately socially distanced, they can take exercise with one other person. That's why I mentioned golf earlier.

"Golf clubs, club houses, they will have to be closed, but we are looking at allowing people to play on golf courses with one other appropriately distanced."

But he was wrong - neither sport will be allowed during the lockdown and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was forced to apologise for his error.

Michael Gove met with the leaders of the devolved nations. Credit: PA

He tweeted: "My apologies, I got this wrong. Outdoor leisure facilities including tennis courts and golf courses will be closed from Thursday."

Despite facing considerable pressure for the sports to be allowed during lockdown, Boris Johnson stood firm when pressed by MPs in the House of Commons.

"Once you unpick at one thing, alas, the effectiveness of the whole package is compromised," the PM said during a statement on the terms of the forthcoming lockdown.

He added: “It is difficult to take out one part of the Jenga block without disturbing the whole package.”

The prime minister wants to reduce social contact between people as much as possible during lockdown in a bid to bring down the infection rate of coronavirus, which is currently experiencing a surge.

Golf will not be allowed during England's lockdown. Credit: PA

His spokesperson confirmed to reporters earlier in the day that neither sport would be allowed during lockdown.

He said: "It’s not the intention for tennis courts or for golf courses to remain open. People are able to use public spaces or walk or run in the park."

A petition for golf to be allowed has gained more than 257,000 signatures, meaning it must now be considered for debate in the Commons.

But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed to ITV News that there will be no rule change on either sport before lockdown ends.

"Unfortunately, until December 2 people won't be able to play golf or tennis. Outdoor sports of that kind unfortunately will be restricted," he said.

He said sports for children will be allowed while at school, but sport outside of school will be banned to avoid any unnecessary contact between children.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed that grassroots sports outside of school would be "paused" during England's second lockdown, "to reduce the transmission risk from households mixing".

"As soon as we can resume this, we will," he added.