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expert reaction to comments from Matt Hancock about not ruling out potential future further action on rules on exercise outside the home if people don’t comply with current measures

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said during an interview with Andrew Marr, that the Government were not ruling out potential further social isolation restrictions, including restricting exercise outside the home, if people don’t comply with current measures.


Prof John Edmunds, Professor in the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“There are 3 potential routes of transmission: via fomites (contact with an infected surface, such as a door handle); via aerosols (tiny particles that can stay suspended in the air); and droplets (larger particles that rapidly fall to the ground).  The first two of these routes would be reduced to virtually zero out of doors, as you are much less likely to touch an infected surface, and suspended particles will be massively diluted by the fresh air and the viral particles that they contain rapidly destroyed by desiccation and UV light.  This leaves droplets.  As long as you keep a reasonable distance away from others, your risk will also be reduced to extremely low levels.  Hence, banning people from exercising out of doors would have a negligible impact on the epidemiology of this disease but a marked impact on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.”


Prof Linda Bauld, Bruce and John Usher Professor of Public Health and CPHS Co-Director, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, said:

“The prospect of outdoor exercise being banned is deeply worrying.  The health implications of the lock down that we anticipate – increased alcohol consumption, domestic violence, anxiety and depression, poor diet and decreased physical activity will get worse if we confine more of us to our homes without the hugely important respite that outdoor exercise provides.  If this change is made, the government needs to be absolutely clear why it is taking this step.  If the rationale is virus transmission outdoors, then far stronger evidence is needed to justify it.  If, instead, it is because people aren’t following the guidance and putting others at risk, then enforcement measures will be key.  I am seeing worrying signs that senior officials who are still able to travel to and from meetings, go outside and have contact with others (albeit while discharging their duties) simply don’t understand the impact that further restrictions will have on millions of people in the UK.”


Prof Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, University of Nottingham, said:

“Banning exercise would have serious deleterious effects especially if maintained for the length of time we are likely to see restrictions.  There are the general benefits of exercise on physical and mental health but also COVID-19 specific consequences which could lead to an increase in people needed hospitalisation and critical care.

“Exercise reduces blood pressure and obesity, and can improve diabetes control in people with type 2 diabetes.  These are all very common conditions and also importantly risk factors for severity in COVID-19 infections.  Small increases in very common risk factors can have large effects.  This could potentially lead to an increase in people needing hospitalisation and critical care.

“Some people do not have gardens so they will have severe limitations if more restrictions are introduced.

“In many parts of the country, and most people, are following the guidance.  There needs to be better enforcement rather than more restrictions.  It is perfectly possible to exercise once a day and pose no risk to others or yourself.

“It is not helped when the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, and Members of Parliament over 70 who were asked to self isolate, do not follow their own advice.”


See 40 min 40 sec:

And clarifying comments from Matt Hancock in today’s government press conference that the government was not planning any changes imminently but further steps could not be ruled out.


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


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