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Can I drive for exercise? Police chief addresses key question

PUBLISHED: 12:43 20 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:05 20 April 2020

Norfolk's chief constable Simon Bailey said people should not drive to the coast to exercise during the coronavirus lockdown. Images: Louise O'Shea/Steve Adams

Norfolk's chief constable Simon Bailey said people should not drive to the coast to exercise during the coronavirus lockdown. Images: Louise O'Shea/Steve Adams

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The message about driving to exercise is clear and most people are sticking to it, according to Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey.

But some readers have written to this newspaper with lingering questions about what is and isn’t considered legal under the emergency legislation aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Bailey said driving from Norwich to the Norfolk coast to take exercise was not allowed as it could not be considered “necessary and essential”.

He said: “That is an interpretation of ‘necessary or essential’. We’ve seen a number of examples over the weekend in other parts of the country where people have driven hundreds of miles to beauty spots or into the hills.

“While I can understand why people would want to do that, the legislation is clear - driving an hour from Norwich to go to the north Norfolk coast is not necessary or essential. If 1,000 people all did that then the risk that we are trying to mitigate are significantly raised.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve AdamsChief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

“This comes down to minimising the spread of the disease.”

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Although the emergency coronavirus legislation does not specifically outlaw driving somewhere to exercise it does state ‘no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse’.

Although taking exercise alone or with a member of your household is listed as a ‘reasonable excuse’, Mr Bailey said this did not include driving an hour to exercise.

West Runton beach West Runton beach

He said the same went for engaging in activities - also reported to this newspaper - such as kayaking or paragliding.

Last week two major police bodies - the National Police Chiefs Council and the College of Policing, released guidelines saying driving the countryside to walk - where far more time is spent walking than driving - was ‘likely to be reasonable’.

Latest figures, from April 15, show Norfolk police have issued 126 fines for breaches of the lockdown rules.

Mr Bailey said he had been satisfied most Norfolk residents were following the rules so far, and urged them to keep it up.

A paraglider in Norfolk during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: SubmittedA paraglider in Norfolk during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Submitted

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He said: “Once again the weekend has proven that the vast majority of people are listening to what we’ve said and treating this as seriously as they should.

“The coast has been incredibly quiet over the weekend, which has been reassuring as we head to, what I hope, is the tail-end of the lockdown. Let’s not go and spoil it now.”


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