The government has been forced to try to clarify how family members can meet for the first time during the coronavirus lockdown after confusion over the prime minister’s statement.
On Sunday night, Boris Johnson, explaining his plan to take the UK out of lockdown, told the nation about new rules for people venturing outside.
He said: “You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports, but only with members of your own household.”
Following his message, a government official reportedly clarified that, in fact, people could sunbathe or chat in a park with one other person from a different household.
And there was yet further confusion on Monday morning when foreign secretary Dominic Raab said people could meet two family members from a different household.
He was asked on the BBC’s Today programme whether the new rules mean people cannot meet two relatives at the same time, such as parents.
Raab replied: “As from Wednesday, people can go outside, for example to parks or certain sports where you can keep social distancing at two metres together, with other members of their own home.
“If, for example, you are going to the park and you can stay more than two metres apart, you could meet up with someone from your own household.”
When asked if that meant people could not see their parents, Raab responded: “Well, you could if they are two metres apart.”
Raab had previously indicated in a BBC Breakfast interview that people would be permitted to meet more than one person. He said a father in a different household from his two daughters could meet both of them in a park.
But Raab said people could not meet family members from other households in their own gardens. “At the moment, that’s not a safe thing to do,” he said.
The full set of rules, which will begin to apply from Wednesday, were published in a 50-page document by the government on Monday afternoon.
The government’s apparent confused messaging has been widely criticised by scientists, opposition politicians and workers’ unions, who said it lacked clarity and warned it will cause more confusion among the public.
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Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, said the government’s new lockdown policy was a “bit all over the place”.
“What I wanted to see was this detail [on lifting the lockdown] pinned down because this is a difficult exercise, I accept that, and any government would struggle,” he said.
“But you almost need more clarity coming to this stage than you did in the lockdown.
“Then, it was pretty clear, pretty straightforward – you stay at home. Coming out, you need real clarity and it is a bit all over the place.”
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Raab also said people shouldn’t play football in the park but can play sports such as tennis, but only with those with whom they share a household.
He also said there are no restrictions on driving distances to visit a park or beauty spot, but warned the public to be aware of different guidelines if they cross the border into Scotland or Wales.
“You can drive as far as you want to drive to go and walk in a park or a particular area that you’re fond of as long as you maintain the social distancing,” he said.
The government has changed its “stay at home” message to “stay alert”, putting England at odds with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.