How far can you travel in lockdown, and can you run or cycle a marathon?

There is confusion over Covid lockdown rules after two friends were fined for exercising too far from home. Photos: Pixabay, BPM Media
After two friends were fined for exercising too far from home, questions have been raised over whether long distance exercise is permitted Credit: Pixabay, BPM Media
  • Words by ITV News Multimedia producer Ann Yip

There is confusion over lockdown rules in England and questions have been raised about how far people can travel for their exercise.

It comes after two women were fined £200 by police for what they thought would have been a socially-distanced walk at Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire on January 6.

Jessica Allen from Ashby, and her friend Eliza Moore - who were in separate cars - were stopped by police at the entrance of the beauty spot. They were told the reservoir was not local to them and the drinks they had bought were not allowed, as picnics are not allowed.

Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa has since said Derbyshire Police had been "a little over-zealous" in its interpretation of the coronavirus guidance.

The Foremark Reservoir in Milton, Derbyshire Credit: BPM Media

So how far can you travel in lockdown? Can you run a marathon that may stray into areas not local to you?

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), which represents police forces in the UK, told ITV News that the Covid Regulations, which police can enforce, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise.

It means that under the law, you may go for a marathon run, walk or bike ride that is not limited to your town or village - and police should not be able to issue a fine.

However, the government's coronavirus guidelines differ slightly from the regulations.

The two women were hit with a £200 fine for what they thought was a local, socially-distanced walk Credit: BPM Media

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said: "The government’s National Lockdown guidelines state that outdoor exercise should be done locally wherever possible."

The term ‘local area’ is not legally defined, but the government has said this means the village, town or part of the city where people live.

An NPCC spokesperson said: “Police officers will be inquisitive about why people are out of their homes and will explain the regulations and encourage people to comply. Where people are breaching the regulations and are away from home without a reasonable excuse, they may be issued with a FPN (Fixed Penalty Notice).

"In situations where people are breaching the guidance not to travel out their local area but are not breaching regulations, officers will encourage people to follow the guidance."

The Cabinet Office spokesperson pointed readers to the Health Secretary's words during the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday, in which he said: "People need to not just follow the letter of the rules but follow the spirit as well and play their part."

Can you drive to another area for exercise?

Yes, as the Covid regulations do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise.

However, the advice from the Cabinet Office is that you should only travel a "short distance within your area to exercise".

Can you meet up with a friend outdoors?

Yes, you can. But only if you are exercising, both the regulations and guidance state.

Pressed over confusion on Covid rules, a No 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing today: "People are allowed to leave their homes if it's for exercise, not socialising."

Can you go for a walk with a friend, while holding a takeaway tea or coffee?

Yes, you can. A Downing Street spokesperson was asked at the same briefing whether walking outside with a takeaway tea is against the rules. The spokesman said: “Going for a walk, obviously, does count as exercise.”

Asked if someone can sit on a park bench and have a coffee under current coronavirus regulations, the spokesman said: “We have set out clearly the rules.

“We have been clear in the exemption for the stay-at-home rule: we are permitting one person to meet another person for exercise.”