Devon & Cornwall Police explain the driving/exercise guidance

We must all continue to play our part in tackling the spread of Coronavirus, say Devon & Cornwall Police..

Just under 300 fines have now been handed out by Devon & Cornwall Police to people who were breaking coronavirus restrictions issued by the government.

In the 10 days between Good Friday, April 10, and 20 April, 296 fines were issued as a last resort across the region by  officers; the vast majority of these were issued to those undertaking non-essential journeys.

Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew said: “By now, everyone should know what their responsibility is in the battle against coronavirus; keep staying at home, try to stay local when exercising and only undertake essential travel. This will help us protect the NHS and ultimately, to save lives.

“There is no room for complacency and we must all keep adhering to the government advice. The majority of people are continuing to play their part in reducing the spread of Covid-19 and to them that I say thank you, your role in this should not be underestimated.  

“There has been much discussion around the legislation and what it does and doesn’t specifically prohibit.

“It’s important to remember that a key factor is if a person’s actions are reasonable or not, and this is why our officers will continue to have conversations with those they stop and will make individual judgements based on specific circumstances presented to them.”

ACC Mayhew added: “A very small percentage of those people our officers speak to during police stops result in enforcement.

“The feedback from the vast majority of our communities is that we are currently striking the right balance between engagement and enforcement, and we will continue to strive to deliver a proportionate approach to the legislation.

ACC Mayhew said: “Please keep to doing your bit by staying at home and avoiding unnecessary travel; you are protecting the NHS and saving lives.”

We continue to update the Covid-19 FAQs as and when we receive new information and further clarity. Please click here to access these and further information.

Devon and Cornwall Police

Devon and Cornwall Police

Here are some questions and answers from the Police website about the contentious issue of driving for exercise.

Exercise and recreation

Can I drive somewhere to do my daily exercise or walk my dog?

Devon & Cornwall Police continue to follow the guidance published by the National Police Chiefs Council which we know is supported by our local communities.

Government advice remains the same, and it is expressly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), to save lives, and to protect the NHS. It includes the following:

  • Only go outside for essential food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home).
  • If you go out, stay two metres (six feet) away from other people at all times.
  • Do not meet others, even friends or family. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

There has been much discussion around what the legislation does and doesn’t specifically prohibit. The legal aspects of the legislation are based upon whether a person’s actions are reasonable or not.  Our officers and staff use their discretion and will continue to make individual judgments based on the specific circumstances presented to them. Through our approach of engagement we will listen and understand.

The key to making this work for everyone in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and across the country, is for everyone to be reasonable.  If you can exercise locally near your home, please do so. Driving extensive distances to visit beauty spots in order to exercise is not within the spirit of the legislation, or what we are all seeking to achieve. We are grateful that our communities understand what we are all trying to achieve together and are supporting us with this. Enforcement will only be used as a last resort. Officers will continue to use discretion and police with consent.

We enjoy the relationship we have with our communities and will continue to engage with people we meet, to provide reassurance and education at this challenging time.

Has the guidance surrounding travel and travelling to exercise changed in light of recent NPCC guidance?

No, and our position has not changed. We have been aware of the guidance since it was published and our policing style and approach reflects our local community and geography but remains in line with the guidance.

The instruction from the government remains that people should only travel for essential purposes, and if exercising can be done on foot or bike then that is what we would ask people consider.

We must not lose sight around why we are being asked to do this. These actions are helping to limit the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), reduce the burden on the NHS, and ultimately will save lives.

Devon & Cornwall Police will continue to operate in the same manner with our public which is to engage, explain, encourage and then, only if necessary use enforcement.

To show that our officers are using enforcement as a last resort, only around 3 per cent of the public we engaged with over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend received a fine.

We continue to ask the public to do their part by staying at home and to stay local when exercising, whilst adhering to social distancing rules.

The public have been hugely supportive and we want to thank them for all they are doing.

Doesn’t this guidance mean anyone can drive for a few hours to visit the lakes/take the dog for a walk three hours away/spend a day walking on the fells/sit on a bench in a park?

No, these powers are about keeping people safe and the starting point is everyone stays at home. Our officers use their judgement every day when applying the law and this is no different. Driving for several hours to exercise when not necessary would not be appropriate. Officers will consider all the factors when engaging with the public and continue to encourage people to stay at home. Where necessary officers will then enforce.

How long can you do your exercise for?

There has been no guidance on the length of time allowed for daily exercise. However, these rules have been put in place to protect people and we should not take advantage of the exceptions that have been made.

The NHS suggests that adults should aim to be physically active every day, doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.

Am I allowed to stop and sit for a few minutes during my allocated exercise time?

Going outside simply to sit or enjoy some fresh air would not be in the spirit of the rules. However, if you’re out for your one form of exercise and need to pause for a moment to catch your breath then this would be fine. You should then either continue with your exercise or make your way home if you are finished.

I can walk to the beach. Can I still go for a swim?

You should not be driving to the beach to go swimming.

The RNLI has stated that as there are no lifeguards on our region’s beaches it is not recommended that you exercise in the sea. Our emergency services are already stretched and should a lifeboat crew be called to an incident in the water, it would put unnecessary pressure on our volunteers and other front line services being exposed to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Can I go surfing for my daily exercise?

You should not be driving to the beach to go surfing.

The RNLI has stated that as there are no lifeguards on our region’s beaches it is not recommended that you exercise in the sea. Our emergency services are already stretched and should a lifeboat crew be called to an incident in the water, it would put unnecessary pressure on our volunteers and other front line services being exposed to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

For these reasons, we do not recommend that people go surfing.

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