No. 10 says Boris Johnson's Olympic Park cycle ride was within Covid guidelines

2807 Boris Johnson rides his bike
Prime Minister Boris Johnson rides a bicycle during a visit to the Canal Side Heritage Centre in Beeston near Nottingham
Prime Minister Boris Johnson rides a bicycle during a visit to the Canal Side Heritage Centre in Beeston near Nottingham in July 2020. Credit: PA

Number 10 has insisted Boris Johnson’s bike ride in east London over the weekend was permitted under coronavirus guidance.

The Prime Minister sparked controversy after it emerged he went on a cycle ride in the Olympic Park in Stratford at the weekend after imposing strict coronavirus restrictions on most of the country.

Mr Johnson's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that Mr Johnson was there “taking exercise which is in accordance with the guidance”.

No.10's statement comes after London's police chief defended the Prime Minster's bike ride seven miles from his home, saying the excursion was within Covid laws.

Labour accused Mr Johnson of hypocrisy over the incident.

Official regulations brought in by the Prime Minister say that exercise is limited to once a day and you should not leave your local area, in a bid to halt the surge in coronavirus cases.

Asked whether the bike ride was a breach of current coronavirus laws, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am not going to comment on individual cases. I’m really not.”

Pressed that the Prime Minister is a role model, the police chief said: “The public are looking to all of us as role models, for all of us in public life, if you like.

“What I can say is that it is not against the law. I think that’s implicit.”

Mr Johnson's official spokesperson said on Tuesday: “The Prime Minister acted in accordance with the Covid guidance while he was exercising.

“We have always trusted the public to exercise good judgment throughout the pandemic when we have asked them to exercise locally.”

The spokesman did not say how far someone can travel to take exercise and sidestepped a question on whether people can drive or take public transport to exercise.

Mr Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton, asked if Mr Johnson regretted his bike ride, said: “He will … be doing bike rides again – you all know how much he loves his bike.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick: Johnson's bike ride 'not against the law'. Credit: PA

The Olympic Park is in Newham, one of London's hardest hit boroughs with the second highest rate in England, up from 1,336.6 to 1,390.1 with 4,909 new cases as of 11 January.

There are no set limits on how far people can travel but officers are hoping the public will recognise what “local” means for exercise, policing minister Kit Malthouse said.

When asked whether “local” should be defined in England, he told Times Radio: “What we are hoping for is that most people will recognise that local, while it’s open to personal interpretation, does have some implications, ie can you get there under your own steam?

“We are trying to strike a balance between maintaining compliance with the rules and elements of public consent to what’s happening.

“I think most people would think that was reasonable.

“Where there are unreasonable people who are breaking that rule, police are intervening.”

It comes as Dame Cressida, Britain’s most senior police officer warned coronavirus rule-breakers they are “increasingly likely” to face fines as forces move “more quickly” to enforce lockdown restrictions.

Writing in The Times, she said: “It is preposterous to me that anyone could be unaware of our duty to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus.

“We have been clear that those who breach Covid-19 legislation are increasingly likely to face fines.”