During the current Coronavirus lockdown in the UK (England), is it legal for me to:

a) Drive for over one hour (alone) to reach the start of my walk.

b) Walk for 4-5 hours (alone) keeping at least 2m away from other people.

c) Drive home again.

The law seems to say that I am allowed to leave my house for exercise but does not stipluate how long this should take. It also does not state that use of a car is not allowed.


Yes, this question is against the "spirit" of the law, but that is not the question being asked, if we get into the morality of it then we have to start taking peoples rights into consideration, one of those rights is to go where they want and to do what they want, even if that means that someone else suffers in some way. People have fought and died for our rights over hundreds of years, you cannot just ignore that.


4 Answers 4


There is no clear answer, and I suspect an argument could be made either way.

The relevant regulations in this case are The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. In particular, regulation 6(1) states that:

6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

In this case, you would be relying on the reasonable excuse given in regulation 6(2)(b):

(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—[...]
(b) to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;

The regulations do not explicitly state:

  • how far you may travel for the purposes of exercise,
  • how long you may exercise for
  • even, in contrast with government advice, how many times a day you may leave your house for exercise.

It would require the interpretation of the courts to decide whether travelling for long distances was reasonable in order to take exercise, and whether exercising for many hours is reasonable. Michael Gove stated in an interview that:

I would have thought that for most people, a walk of up to an hour, or a run of 30 minutes or a cycle ride of between that, depending on their level of fitness is appropriate.

This is of course not law, but opinion; yet it is worth keeping in mind that the courts may take a similar view to this.

A strong argument could be made to say that this scenario is not in fact necessary exercise, but leisure, which is not considered a reasonable excuse in the regulations. Equally, it could be argued that the regulations do support travel for exercise in any form. I don't think anyone could answer with certainty whether this is legal or not, until the law is tested on this point.

  • 8
    It seems pretty clear that what OP wants to do is against the spirit of the law even if not the letter, especially since car parks have been closed to prevent exactly this type of activity.
    – Kat
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 18:39
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    @Kat On the contrary : The spirit of the law (ie its purpose) is to reduce deaths, primarily from the virus, by avoiding unnecessary social contact and minimising the possibility of transmission of the virus. Car parks are closed to reduce the potential for social transmission - they sometimes have ticket machines, public conveniences and nearby picnic areas - rather than to inhibit responsible isolated exercise. Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 19:43
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    @sammygerbil actually the spirit of the rules are quite clear: if travel is not absolutely necessary, don't do it.
    – eps
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 21:01
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    @sammygerbil While the spirit of the law certainly allows travel to a more suitable location for exercise, if not possible from home (such as a lack of suitable footpaths where safety and social distance can both be maintained), an hour's drive to get there seems to be stretching that by a fair amount, as is the suggested duration of the exercise... Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 12:19
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    @eps I disagree. The rules themselves are the letter of the law. They do not state that travel is unlawful if not absolutely necessary (see Aurora's answer). That is your interpretation. The spirit of the law is the intention behind the rules, which are not an end in themselves. The intention is rarely if ever stated in statute or regulations. Judges apply the letter of the law but have discretion to interpret what the intention was, to avoid injustice or unreasonable outcomes. They do not (should not) apply the law according to popular opinion of what it is or should be. Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 13:10

Unfortunately government "guidance" and police policy changes rapidly and is inconsistent, especially as the Regulations are made under health legislation, which is now a devolved matter so the four UK jurisdictions (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) all have similar-but-different rules and guidance.

In terms of what exercise is reasonable, the Govt has issued guidance in a different context. (my emphasis)

• Adults should do activities to develop or maintain strength in the major muscle groups. These could include heavy gardening, carrying heavy shopping, or resistance exercise. Muscle strengthening activities should be done on at least two days a week, but any strengthening activity is better than none.

Professor Dame Sally C Davies, Chief Medical Officer, England

Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer/Medical Director NHS Wales

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Northern Ireland

Dr Catherine Calderwood, [then] Chief Medical Officer, Scotland


Police guidance, which may not always be followed by individual officers, has changed.

New guidance has been issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing

Police forces have been told people should not be punished for travelling a “reasonable distance” to exercise following criticism of heavy-handed tactics used to enforce the Covid-19 lockdown.

The new guidance, issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing on Tuesday night, also states road checks on every vehicle are “disproportionate”.

It comes after Derbyshire Police faced a backlash for filming walkers with drones to deter visitors to the Peak District, while North Yorkshire Police stopped motorists at “checkpoints” last week.

The new guidance states: “Use your judgement and common sense; for example, people will want to exercise locally and may need to travel to do so, we don’t want the public sanctioned for travelling a reasonable distance to exercise.

It says: “There is no power to ‘stop and account’. The police will apply the law in a system that is flexible, discretionary and pragmatic.


The difficulty is, of course, that if you refuse any fixed penalty (initially £30) it will go to court; the government will be represented by an experienced prosecution barrister and you will probably have a solicitor or very junior barrister, at your own expense. Legal Aid is restricted in availability and only covers very low rates of legal fees. Already one person has been prosecuted for an offence that does not exist and the police (British Transport Police) have apologised and asked for the conviction to be reversed.

The prior and detailed answer by Aurora0001 does not address the question:

Is the reasonable excuse of exercise in 6(2)(b) further qualified by any sense of "reasonable", or, once the purpose is given as "exercise", is that then a permitted purpose without restriction?

The legislation is badly written and is being misrepresented by police, government, and much of the media.

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    How did the prosecutor manage to get a conviction in court for an offence that does not exist? What did they cite as the relevant offence?
    – JBentley
    Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 19:06
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    @JBentley bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-52148020 Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 20:03
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    "British Transport Police (BTP) said it had conducted a review with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that “established that Marie Dinou was charged under the incorrect section of the Coronavirus Act 2020”." Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 20:07
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    Magistrates court - magistrates are lay (unqualified) judges and supposed to judge the facts only. They are guided in the law by a magistrates' clerk, who is probably a solicitor. The defence advocate was probably a duty solicitor. A competent barrister (ie the prosecution counsel) would be able to run rings round them both.
    – Owain
    Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 20:22
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    @Owain Or, in this case, an incompetent barrister!
    – JBentley
    Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 20:37

I'm assuming that you are asking this because you want to do this and not actually because you want to know/test the law.

The government has been (most likely intentionally) unclear about what you can and can't do. So let's just explore what you could happen:

  • If you have a car crash you would be putting excess pressure on the NHS and yourself at risk as you would be in a hospital with COVID patients.

  • If you injure yourself or have an emergency whilst walking you will be putting pressure on first responders/volunteer rescue services. Also you could be putting them at risk as you may have the virus.

  • You may also have no symptoms but carrying the virus and spreading it - even if you intend to not come with in 2 metres of people - you can't help it if they come within two metres of you.

I have family members who are working insane hours in hospitals trying to keep people alive. The amount of death they have to see each day is something we will never have to experience. This is happening whilst other members of the public get to stay at home and practice self care (not everyone, but a large proportion of us currently unaffected by the disease or the economy). Can you imagine telling an NHS worker what you were going to do?

The best advice I have heard is act like you have the virus and don't want to spread it. You wouldn't do what you're suggesting then. Act ethically and in the spirit of the law and don't be selfish.

  • 1
    However don't most accidents happen at home? So you might be safer on the (relatively calm) roads. See rospa.com/Home-Safety/Advice/General/Facts-and-Figures and theguardian.com/society/2014/dec/12/…. Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 19:35
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    @sammygerbil you are also more likely to be attacked by a shark in water, I wonder why.
    – eps
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 21:02
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    @eps More likely than what? Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 21:13
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    ... than a shark on land.
    – user4657
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 22:06
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    You’d think that sharks out of the water would be extremely angry and attack anyone.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 9:53

I don't mean to be rude but where on earth did you get the twisted claptrap.. 'one of those rights is to go where they want and to do what they want, even if that means that someone else suffers in some way'.... The Self-Entitled Weekly Magazine?

Actually not one of those (actual) rights stipulate any such thing and is why there was long overdue ban on smoking in certain public places in the UK ... ie. smoking whenever and wherever you want, even if that means that someone else suffers in some way.

In short, yes I believe you would be in violation of the 'spirit' of the law, which will be considered as mentioned above. Of course it was reasonable to leave for exercise but was it reasonable to travel that far and was it reasonable to do so for that amount of time? I believe you would not be able to justify the distance or the time. Note: even less so now the government have updated the rules on excercise to include:

'stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily'

'...once per day'

this was done specifically to address people 'bending the rules' by driving to open spaces and staying out for an inordinate amount of time.

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