Coronavirus: Brits could see exercise rules eased as Boris Johnson reviews lockdown

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·5-min read
People relax and exercise in Primrose Hill park in central London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
People relax and exercise in Primrose Hill park in central London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (PA)

Britons may be allowed out of their houses for “unlimited exercise” from Monday, as part of measures to begin relaxing the coronavirus lockdown, according to reports.

Boris Johnson chaired a cabinet meeting for a legal review of the restrictions on Thursday morning, where ministers discussed whether some lockdown rules can be eased.

The PM will make speech on Sunday in which he is expected to outline his longer term plan for taking the country out of lockdown.

According to the Financial Times, allowing the public to exercise outdoors as much as they like is one measure that could be brought in immediately.

Johnson told the cabinet that the government would proceed with “maximum caution” when it comes to easing the coronavirus lockdown, and that nothing would be done which risked a second peak in the outbreak.

Screen grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Boris Johnson is undertaking a review of lockdown regulations. (PA)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Johnson warned ministers that he would not hesitate to tighten the rules again if required.

The spokesman said: “The Prime Minister said that in considering whether there could be any easement in the existing guidelines that we are not going to do anything that risks a second peak.

“We will advance with maximum caution in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

“We will be guided at every step by the science and the data and we will closely track the impact of any easing of the social distancing measures and will not hesitate to tighten the rules if required.”

Ministers have repeatedly outlined the dangers of lifting measures too early, stressing that lockdown will be lifted gradually and that strict social distancing will continue for some time.

Speaking on Sky News on Thursday, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said: “I think it would be wrong to get too carried away. We will be discussing some of the options and the advice that is being put to us in cabinet later on today, the review is today, the prime minister will then outline if there are going to be any changes.

“But I think we’ve got to understand that this is a pandemic and a virus that spreads so easily that we have to be very cautious as we look at how we come out of the current lockdown.”

He said that “the way in which we do it, I think we’ve got to be very cautious”, adding: “Because the worst thing that could happen would be to have a very fast, quick and dangerous second peak to this virus.”

Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told BBC Good Morning Scotland he thinks lockdown measures should continue, saying: “Lockdown needs to stay in place until we are sure the infection rate has gone down.

“I will be very surprised if the government doesn’t reimpose the lockdown when it comes up for review later on and we will support them in that. This is not about lifting the lockdown now, it’s about planning for the future.”

Lockdown review

Other possible changes to lockdown later in the year could include the return of some sports, picnics in the park and opening of pub and cafe gardens, indicated reports in The Sun and Financial Times.

However, strict social distancing measures would remain – meaning people would still be required to remain at least two metres apart.

A Number 10 spokesman refused to comment on the claims, telling Yahoo News UK that the PM will set out plans on Sunday.

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world

Fact-checker: The number of COVID-19 cases in your local area

6 charts and maps that explain how COVID-19 is spreading

In an indication of the changed approach, Public Health England said it was "reviewing all communications materials in anticipation of moving to the next phase of the government campaign”.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has already said there will be no dramatic shift in Scotland.

Sturgeon unveiled a paper on the options being considered – but warned “extreme caution” was still needed.

Testing failings

The potential lockdown relaxation comes as opposition leaders demanded an explanation for the decline in coronavirus testing, after the government missed its 100,000-a-day target for the fourth day in a row.

Labour said that the news "does not inspire confidence" in the plans to ease lockdown measures.

It came after the PM set a target for creating the capacity for 200,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.

Downing Street made clear the new target, unlike the previous goal, was related only to capacity rather than the number performed every day.

The government signalled it believed the route out of lockdown would rely on increased capacity as part of a test, track and trace programme, to quickly identify new cases of coronavirus and prevent the further spread of the infection.

But Labour former prime minister Gordon Brown said that the government's target for tests needed to be increased.

Coronavirus numbers

Latest figures from the Department of Health showed 30,076 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, as of 5pm on Tuesday, up 649 from the day before.

But the total number of deaths involving COVID-19 that have been registered across the UK currently stands at 32,898.

New analysis from the Office for National Statistics is due to be published on Thursday, examining coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales by occupation and ethnicity.

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter