Define “local”

I wasn’t the only one confused by the Derbyshire police rebuke of walking in an empty landscape. The government had to clarify.

The government has said people should “stay local” and not travel unnecessarily for exercise.

New advice clarifies that people must use “open spaces” near to home, where possible.

It follows confusion over whether people could drive places to go walking, running, or cycling.

Exercise is one of the few defined reasons that people in the UK are allowed to leave their home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Derbyshire Police sparked a heated debate on Twitter this week when it shared drone footage of people walking in the Peak District, with a warning that daily exercise should not involve long trips or journeys in the car.

I would like to point out here that it’s not clear that the Derbyshire police knew the people walking had taken a long trip to do it. Some people actually live in Derbyshire, I believe.

The prime minister, who has tested positive for coronavirus, said on Monday that people can take “one form of exercise a day” – either on their own or with people they live with. The government’s official guidelines list running, walking and cycling as examples.

But the initial guidelines did not advise if, or how far, people could travel in order to exercise.

While the new advice does go further, it does not explicitly define what counts as “local”, and whether or not people can use cars.

And for some people the Peak District is local.

The RAC said before the release of the latest goverment advice that people shouldn’t drive places to exercise, recommending instead that they use their gardens – where possible – or leave home “on foot or by bike”.

Superintendent Steve Pont, of Derbyshire Police, echoed this advice in an interview with the BBC’s Today programme.

“Every time you’re out in public, away from your home, there’s a possibility you might catch or pass on the virus,” he said.

But not much of one if you keep your distance from people, don’t touch stuff, and don’t touch your face. It still looks to me like a kind of reversion to the war, when travel was restricted, for the very compelling reason that fuel was in limited supply and crucial for not letting Hitler win. This isn’t that. Maybe there’s some point to saying let’s keep the risk of traffic accidents as low as possible while medical people are in emergency mode, but it seems a bit stretched to me. It’s not personal; I don’t have a car; I just think it’s a bit too much like the cops visiting people to accuse them of transphobia.

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