Coronavirus lockdown: Police issue guidance on 'reasonable excuses' for going outside

17 April 2020, 06:33 | Updated: 17 April 2020, 09:50

Police have clarified lockdown enforcement
Police have clarified lockdown enforcement. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Senior police chiefs have issued new guidance about what counts as a "reasonable excuse" to be out and about during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The announcement comes as the Government announced the UK coronavirus lockdown would be extended for at least three more weeks until May 7.

Officers have been told to stop people "home-working" in parks or sitting on a public bench for long periods of time.

Guidance to officers in England says neither activity is likely to be a "reasonable excuse" for someone to leave their home in the lockdown.

The guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing (CoP) gives more advice to officers on how to interpret the lockdown restriction laws - known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.

The guidance says buying food for several days, including "luxury items and alcohol", is likely to be a reasonable excuse for leaving your home.

"There is no need for all of a person's shopping to be basic food supplies; the purchase of snacks and luxuries is still permitted," it says.

However, the document suggests people should not be leaving their house just to buy paint and brushes "simply to redecorate a kitchen" but can purchase tools and supplies to repair a fence "damaged in recent bad weather".

It comes after more than 3,200 fines were handed out to people considered to be flouting the rules in England between March 27 ad April 13.

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It adds it is "acceptable" for a person to stop for a break during exercise and it is "lawful to drive for exercise".

Examples of incidents not likely to be considered reasonable by police under the guidance include a person who can work from home choosing to work in a nearby park; a short walk to a park bench when the person remains seated for a much longer period; buying paint and brushes simply to redecorate a kitchen, and driving for a prolonged period with only brief exercise.

A CoP spokeswoman the information was put together so officers and the CPS are "joined up", adding: "This isn't new national guidance and the messaging for the public hasn't changed."

What can you go shopping for during the coronavirus lockdown?

Buy several days' worth of food, including luxury items and alcohol

Buy a small amount of a staple item or necessity (for example a newspaper, pet food, a loaf of bread or pint of milk)

Collect surplus basic food items from a friend

Buy tools and supplies to repair a fence panel damaged in bad weather

If you're out on your weekly shop, you won't stopped from browsing the "non-essential" aisles.

What exercise can you take during lockdown?

Going for a run or cycle, practising yoga, walking in the countryside or in cities or attending an allotment

Driving to countryside and walking (where far more time is spent walking than driving)

Stopping to rest or to eat lunch while on a long walk

In some circumstances, exercising more than once per day

What work can and can't you do during the lockdown?

Clear guidance from the government was issued when schools closed down in March as to who was and was not classed as a key worker - most of whom have been permitted to travel to their place of work.

Some non-key workers have also been allowed to travel to work, should their employer ask them to, or if they cannot work from home.

However, the guidelines state that working from home means working from your home and not local parks or gardens.

The NPCC adds that there is no need for someone to produce proof that they are required to go into work.

Key workers or other essential workers can travel to work where it is not reasonably possible to work from home

Deliver food packages to vulnerable people.

But, the guidance says people who can work from home cannot decide to work in a local park.

Knocking on doors offering to do cash in-hand work is also not allowed.

The guidance also states you can also go outside for several non-work and shopping reasons:

Taking a pet to the vet for essential treatment

Move to a friend's address for several days to allow a "cooling-off" following arguments at home

Provide support to vulnerable people.