New guidance on spending time outdoors

From today (13 May 2020) people in England can spend more time outdoors and enjoy a wider range of activities for any length of time, subject to social distancing rules.

People and their households can relax in the park, sunbathe, go for a picnic and go fishing.

They will also be able to spend time with one member of another household, one-on-one, as long as they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines at all times, staying 2 metres apart.

Outdoor sports facilities can reopen including outdoor tennis courts, golf clubs and basketball courts meaning that people can play a greater range of sport. Again, they will be able to do this alone, with their household or one other person, while adhering to social distancing.

Guidance that said people could only go out to exercise once a day have also been removed.

jogger in park

People will also be able to travel further to enjoy their time outside, with no restrictions on how far they can go to get to the countryside, National Parks and beaches in England.

The advice remains that everybody should continue to avoid public transport other than for essential journeys. Therefore, people should only make these journeys by cycling, walking or driving in a private vehicle.

People also should check in advance of visiting places like National Parks and beaches to make sure they are prepared for visitors.

Today’s advice is strictly limited to spending time with your household or with one other person and is subject to social distancing rules.

It remains the case that you cannot gather with more than one member of another household for example to play sports. You also cannot:

  • go on holiday
  • visit and stay overnight at a holiday home or second home
  • visit the homes of friends and family, unless it’s to help a vulnerable person, for medical reasons, or to take a child to another household with whom parental responsibilities are shared

More stringent enforcement measures for non-compliance with the new rules have also come into effect today.

Fines have been increased, and will now start at £100, which will be lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days. This will double on each further repeat offence up to £3,200.

This is vital to send a clear message to the small minority who break the law, and to safeguard the country’s recovery.

The police will continue to use their common sense, discretion and experience when people are not following the guidelines. As they have throughout, they will engage, explain, encourage and only as a last resort consider enforcement by way of fixed penalty notice.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “Spending time outdoors, exercising or just enjoying the countryside is essential for our physical health and wellbeing. The restrictions have impacted everyone, but particularly those without much living space or a garden.

“We want to make life as healthy, bearable and social as possible, whilst controlling the virus and saving lives. That is why we have worked to find safe ways to enable more people to spend more time outdoors.”

To support this change in advice, the government is also publishing guidance on how to do it safely. This includes guidance on accessing green spaces.

Safer public places during coronavirus in urban centres and green space guidance, also published today, sets out how high streets and areas around transport hubs and parks can be managed and operated safely, giving people confidence to return to public spaces.

This also suggests practical measures owners and operators can take to help people socially distance in public places including making more room for pedestrians and making it easier for people to cycle or walk to work.

Measures suggested in the guidance include:

  • introducing new cycle paths or extending existing paths
  • making high streets pedestrianised or introducing one-way traffic
  • separate entry and exit routes in shops
  • changing car parking layouts
  • widening footpaths, temporary barriers or spray markings outside shops to support queueing
  • signs to encourage people to wait to allow others to pass on footpaths

Developed with local councils and town and city managers as well as landowners, commercial landlords and management companies, the guidance also sets out measures for land around commercial buildings, transport hubs and green spaces including parks and cemeteries.

The government is also publishing guidance today (13 May 2020) on outdoor sport and recreation, to increase people’s access to local, outdoor physical activity.

The guidance details how the public can carry out more regular and diverse exercise, and how outdoor sports courts and facility providers can consider reopening, in line with the government’s advice.

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