Posted: Sat 25th Apr 2020

Revised stay-at-home regulations have come into force in Wales today

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Apr 25th, 2020

The Welsh Government has tweaked some of the ‘stay at home’ rules aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.

The refreshed rules – which came into force today – make it clear that people who go out for essential reasons must return straight home afterwards.

The Welsh Government said: “This will help clarify that people who leave their home with a reasonable excuse – such as going out to shop for food, for healthcare or for work – cannot remain outside to do other things.” 

There are some new arrangements that allow people with particular health conditions or disabilities to leave home to exercise more than once a day.

The move will help families who have people with specific medical needs, including individuals with learning disabilities or Autism.

The stay-at-home regulations are aimed at restricting movement and gatherings during the emergency period and “no person may leave the place where they are living or remain away from that place without reasonable excuse.”

The Welsh Government said the main purpose of the law “is to minimise the extent to which people leave their homes during the emergency period to help contain coronavirus.

Unnecessary and unjustifiable journeys are prohibited to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading further and imposing additional burdens on health services.

The fundamental principle is that people should stay at home as much as possible.”

The tweak, introduced today is also intended to clampdown on people travelling to second homes on Wales.

Senior doctors called on Welsh Government to outlaw all second home use until the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.

A group of Welsh GP’s, including Flintshire Cluster Lead Dr Angharad Fletcher, signed an open letter urging ministers to ban second home use in Wales.

The Welsh Government has stopped short of a ban opting to use the updated regulations which make it clear that people cannot remain away from the place they live.

Reasonable excuse.

Determining what is a reasonable excuse to “leave home is intended to be something that is interpreted strictly.” The Welsh Government notes. 

“There are two reasons for this, the first is the gravity of the public health emergency that led to the restriction being imposed, and secondly, because it should be clear from the examples provided of reasonable excuses that they are confined to basic essentials.

If in doubt, therefore, you should stay at home.”

What exercise is “reasonable”?

A reasonable excuse, for leaving the home is to do exercise but only once a day and is subject to limitations. 

In England, there is no restriction on how many times you can go out and exercise per day.

The Welsh Government guidance states: “exercising outside should be allowed for health and wellbeing reasons.

However, this is a limited exception and the hope is that people will understand they are expected to change their normal behaviours accordingly.

The exception that allows people to go out to exercise is subject to the need not to congregate in public places and advice to practice social distancing (maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres from other persons).

Exercise should be done alone or with other members of the household (or with carers as appropriate – see below).

It is not intended to be a social activity during the emergency period nor should it be an excuse for leaving the home for other purposes.

Similarly, people should seek to avoid exercising on paths or in parks or other places they are aware can be busy.”

The form of exercise is not specified in the regulations but there are constraints due to the closure of indoor facilities such as swimming pools also the closure of certain footpaths and land in the countryside and the “overarching prohibition on unnecessary travel.”

“As one of the purposes of the restrictions is to reduce pressure on the Welsh NHS, there is an expectation also that the reasonable excuse to exercise does not include activities that involve a significant degree of risk (for example swimming or other exercise at sea, or in lakes, rivers or other waterways).

Exercise, therefore, should be done locally and generally be limited to walking, running and cycling.”

The guidance doesn’t state how long you can exercise for, it notes that: “In light of the overarching message that we should all stay at home, and in order to emphasise that exercising should only be a limited exception, that it is only reasonable to leave home to exercise once a day. This is also intended to signal that exercising outside is not something that should be done for a significant amount of time.”

Driving to partake in exercise. 

The guidance is now specific on whether you can drive to partake in exercise, it states, “the intention is that exercise should be undertaken locally – as close as possible to the home.”

“In general this should not involve people driving to a location away from home for this purpose.

No journeys of any significant distance should be taken, for example, just in order to exercise in the countryside or at beauty spots (many of which are closed in any event to prevent this).”

The updated regulations to make provision for people with specific health or mobility issues who may need to travel from their home in order to be able to exercise, with the guidance noting travel to the “nearest convenient accessible location” can be seen as reasonable, however “no long journeys should be undertaken unless absolutely necessary”.

Those who have taken picnics on an exercise walk are specifically called out, “Going for a walk and then having a picnic or spending a prolonged period on a park bench, for example, is not considered to be exercise and is not intended to be a reasonable excuse.”

Many have asked if the rules allow dog walking and exercise combined, this is specifically answered, “Combining exercise with walking a dog or going to a shop to buy food, for example, is considered to be reasonable.”

Cycling.

“Cycling is a valid form of exercise and is also a suitable way of going to work.” The guidance states. 

It adds: “People are expected to only cycle alone or with members of their household, on routes they know well, and that are well within their ability level.

Cyclists on shared paths should be considerate of walkers, runners and other people cycling: they should stay two metres from others, slow their pace and stop to let people pass as appropriate.

Cycling should be local, as a rule of thumb limited to travelling no further than a reasonable walking distance from home.

Exercising by cycling significant distances from home is not considered to be a reasonable excuse for leaving home.

Cycling to work, or for work, is a reasonable excuse to be outside (so long as going to work, or doing the work, is itself justifiable).”

Other changes, that came into force at 00:01 on Saturday, include:

  • Applying the 2m physical distancing duty on premises used for “click and collect” style services – this duty is already in place for other workplaces, which remain open;
  • Widening the definition of vulnerable person to include other specific groups or conditions where people could benefit from assistance and to whom providing supplies is a reasonable excuse for another person to leave home (for example, people with dementia);
  • Extending the physical distancing duty to cafés accessible by the public in hospitals, and those responsible for canteens in schools, prisons and for use by the armed forces, to ensure all reasonable measures are put in place.

The Welsh Government says it has also asked the four police forces in Wales to provide further advice about whether existing provisions intended to prevent people from travelling to second homes in Wales need to be further strengthened.

Announcing changes to the regulations, which follow the first statutory three-week review of the law, the First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“The restrictions are staying in place, which mean you must stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS.

“Over the last few months, we have taken unprecedented steps to protect everyone, but particularly those most at risk from serious illness. This approach has helped the NHS prepare and cope with coronavirus and it has also helped to save many lives.

“The changes we are introducing supplement the rules already in force but they respond to some challenges being faced in parts of the country and by families throughout Wales.

“Our message has not changed – anyone can get coronavirus, anyone can spread it. So please, stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives.”

 

 

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