Cabinet minister Michael Gove has apologised after wrongly suggesting tennis courts and golf courses could remain open during the second lockdown.
Stricter measures are set to come into force on Thursday until at least December 2 in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.
It will include indoor and outdoor sports facilities such as golf courses, tennis courts, leisure centres and gyms being ordered to close with Gove forced to say sorry after getting the government’s rules wrong.
During an online question and answer session with his constituents on Monday, the MP for Surrey Heath sparked confusion when he suggested it would be possible to play singles tennis.
Gove also said “we are looking at” allowing people to play golf with one other person, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson so far resisting calls for golf courses to remain open.
Asked if doubles tennis can continue, Gove 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.”
On Tuesday morning, Gove apologised for the comments on Twitter, including a link to the Government guidance.
“My apologies, I got this wrong,” he said. “Outdoor leisure facilities including tennis courts and golf courses will be closed from Thursday.”
England Golf has already confirmed it would challenge the decision and an online petition to make golf courses exempt from venues required to shut received more than 250,000 signatures. It means it will be considered for debate by Parliament.
The petition read: “Isolation (is) essential to the Government’s strategy for fighting coronavirus, and UK citizens must remain healthy and exercise whilst keeping adequate distance between people.
“The Government should allow golf courses to open so families or individuals can play golf in order to exercise safely.
“This could be achieved on golf courses, whether families or individuals are playing rounds. On the course everyone can keep a safe distance from each other. Let’s make use of the space and the open air. Golf can help people stay healthy and happy whilst observing social distancing rules.”