Police in talks to introduce tougher restrictions on outdoor exercise

A policeman wearing a mask in Ipswich town centre during the coronavirus pandemic

The National Police Chiefs’ Council are in talks with the government over tightening outdoor exercise restrictions - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Tighter coronavirus lockdown restrictions on outdoor exercise could be enforced in the country, a senior police officer has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said talks with the Home Office and Department of Health over exercise restrictions are ongoing as officers face difficulties in policing the pandemic.

The policing body, who are in charge of policing lockdown, hope the government will provide further detail on lockdown laws – with officers facing difficulties over what are breaches in law rather than breaches in guidance.

As it stands, people are allowed to exercise outdoors with one person from another household – more lenient than during the first national lockdown last year.

There have been reports in recent days of tighter restrictions set to be introduced, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to rule out tougher restrictions in the Commons on Wednesday.

ACC Weatherill said: “There was a deliberate effort to try and make it flexible initially so there was a degree of freedom of choice for people, and you could exercise some of the decisions you wanted to within certain ranges, but that clearly is presenting other problems.

"I think it would be helpful if we could be a little bit more proscriptive in some respects, so it may be that we need to add some extra definition to it to help people understand it.”

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A poll by this newspaper of more than 1,000 people found that 75% of readers believe lockdown restrictions should be toughened.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore - Credit: Archant

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said he would "welcome" clarity from the government over the restrictions.

He said: “I would welcome clarity, for the sake of the public and our police officers, who are putting themselves at risk every day to help keep us safe.

“The rules are there for a purpose which is to stop the spread of infection and reduce the impact of the pandemic, so I urge everyone to use their common sense and reduce the risk to themselves and others.

“It is only a small minority of people who deliberately flout the rules but every one of these irresponsible individuals is a risk to the rest of us. 

"Make no mistake whilst enforcement by the police is a last resort it will be used as necessary and I fully support the constabulary in this approach.”

He added: “The health service is full to capacity so unnecessary journeys and other activities could potentially jeopardise the efforts to save lives which is not what anybody needs.“

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has also called on the public to not “take the mickey” out of restrictions and said it was "impossible to know" when they might be eased.

Mr Hancock said on Monday however that he wants to be "crystal clear" that support bubbles would not be removed from guidance.

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