Coronavirus and Walking
The current outbreak of the Covid-19 Coronavirus has many people rightfully worried.
With the relaxing of the lockdown in England on Wednesday 13th May, what are the differences between the various nations of the UK, and what can we or can't we do?
The simplest and safest answer is stay in your local area
- wherever you are in the UK.
The team at Walks Around Britain have read through many papers and research to find what we believe to be the current situation regarding Coronavirus and the outdoors. This feature provides our best interpretation of that research, but we are not medical practitioners. Last updated - 12/5/2020.
The Prime Minister's address on Sunday 10th May started the process of lifting the lockdown imposed back in March to limit the spread of the Coronavirus - but this was for England only.
The other devolved nations of the UK - Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland HAVE NOT lifted their lockdown, and this is providing for different allowable activites in different parts of the country.
If you live in England...
From Wednesday 13th May, you can walk anywhere you could walk before the crisis - and you can travel anywhere in England to go walking.
- You must observe social distancing rules at all times - so stay 2 metres away from other people apart from members of your household.
- You can go walking with one other person who is not part of your household - whilst again maintaining 2 metres social distancing at all times.
- You can go out as many times as you like - you are not limited to one form of exercise a day.
- You can stop whilst exercising now to sit and enjoy the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing.
- Day trips are now allowed to any part of England, provided you can maintain social distancing from other people not in your household.
- As hotels, bed & breakfasts and campsites are all closed, any trips to go walking need to be of a sensible distance to allow you to return home.
- Many car parks, toilets and shops - as well as all cafes and pubs - will be closed, even in popular walking areas - so travelling a fair distance for a walk on the hill could be a challenging propostion.
- Mountain Rescue teams are all made up of volunteers, many of whom work in the NHS and other frontline professions, so they may not be at the strength they would usually be.
- These lifted guidelines only apply to England. So you can not travel into Wales or Scotland and go walking, as their rules are currently different.
For more information about England's guidelines, click here.
If you live in Wales...
Stay at Home is the message still in Wales.
- You can leave your house for exercise - and you can now exercise outside as often as you wish..
- If you exercise outside, you should start and finish from home and this should not involve going a significant distance from home.
- You can combine exercise with other – incidental – activities that are beneficial to your health and well-being. So you can go for a walk and then stop to have something to eat.
- Any exercise that you do - like walking - should be local, involve minimal risk and be done in accordance with advice on social distancing - so stay 2 metres away from other people apart from members of your household.
- You should avoid travelling by a vehicle to go walking unless there is a good reason for doing so.
- Areas of the 3 National Parks in Wales, along with footpaths can be closed at any time to prevent crowds of people at popular areas.
For more information about Wales' guidelines, click here.
If you live in Scotland...
Stay at Home is the message still in Scotland.
- You can leave your house for exercise as often as you wish.
- Any exercise that you do - like walking - should be minimal risk and be done in accordance with advice on social distancing - so stay 2 metres away from other people apart from members of your household.
- If you exercise outside, as unnecessary travel should be avoided, you should walk in your own local area from your home.
- You should not travel to parks, beauty spots or beaches.
- However, if you (or a person in your care) has a specific health condition that requires you to leave the home to maintain your health - including if that involves travel beyond your local area - then you can do so.
For more information about Scotland's guidelines, click here.
So, the guidelines are clearer now possibly - even though there's major differences now between England, and Wales and Scotland.
It is also clear though in England, if people take the relaxing of controls to mean they can travel to anywhere in the country to walk - and don't maintain social distancing - then there could be enough new cases of the virus to cause a second peak - with the obvious moving back to a lock down situation.
Also, many of the rural areas in England we love to go walking in - Cumbria, the Yorkshire Dales, Dartmoor - are all places with either high levels of infection and/or smaller hospitals which couldn't cope with more people who develop the virus whilst they are on their walking trip.
Therefore, it is our advice to stay away from National Parks and other popular areas we all love to walk in,
at the moment, in order to help protect the local communities who live in those areas.
The communities in the Lake District, Peak District and many other places are fairly uniform in their message that they'd love for visitors to come back to their areas - just not yet.
It seems wise to us, and good practise, to respect those views.
After all, we can choose where we walk - they can't choose where they live, work or shop.
So, at the moment, we advise walking in your local area.
The rules on driving in England were relaxed on 13th May, so if you have a car, your could easily extend your local area to travelling slightly more further afield than the probably by now well-troddened paths right outside your house.
Woodlands, parks, nature reserves, reserviors, canal towpaths and old railway lines are all in everyone's local area - but check on whether places will be open online before making a journey.
The OS Maps app has a Greenspace layer which is free to use and will show you all the greenspaces in your local area.
Some Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions...
Is it safe to walk outside?
Walking outside is as safe as anywhere else at the moment.
In fact, it’s safer to be outside than inside with crowds when it comes to disease transmission. This is because when people congregate together and someone sneezes or coughs, droplets get onto objects and surfaces that other people touch, and then eventually those people touch their face.
The best advice for walking right now is to go out and walk with members of your household and enjoy the outdoors. Remember to #StayLocal - don't travel very far from your home.
Should I avoid touching gates?
The latest information with the coronavirus is that it does not last as long on objects outside because of the exposure to sunlight. The effect of viruses on surfaces is rapidly diminished by the presence of Ultraviolet light (UVA) and sunlight is a source of a lot of UVA light.
You can minimise your risk by walking in areas without gates or stiles - or by walking in less popular areas. That way, the surfaces and objects outdoors should have little virus on them.
However, the issue is if someone coughs into his or her hand immediately before touching a gate, and then you touch the gate after them. Therefore, if you have to touch a gate immediately after someone else, do not touch your face after. Or use a glove, sleeve, or elbow - and then wash that item on your return home.
Can you go walking in groups?
No. In Wales and Scotland, the police have the powers to stop groups of more than two people from meeting. In light of the guidelines issued on Monday 23rd March 2020, you can only walk with members of your own household.
In England, you now can go walking with one other person who is not a member of your own household, providing you all maintain social distancing of 2 metres away from them.
And don’t forget to wash your hands when you get back home.
Can you go for a walk if you are self-isolating?
No. The current advice from the UK Government is if you have any symptoms of coronavirus infection, however mild, do not leave your home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill
You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
Can coronavirus be spread through sweat?
According to the most recent information, transmission of the coronavirus happens between people who are in close contact with one another (about two metres or six feet) and through respiratory droplets, produced through a cough or sneeze - not sweat.
How can walking help with Social Distancing?
- Always keep 2 metres or six feet away from others you don't know
- If the place you have gone to exercise is busy, go somewhere else.
- Perhaps try to go on a different day at a different time.
It is still possible to go walking if you #Stay Local.
Can I catch coronavirus from dogs?
There is no evidence that you can catch coronavirus from dogs or other pets.
The virus is most commonly passed from person to person through coughing and sneezing. We know the virus can live on surfaces for some time, depending on the type of material, temperature and other factors - so in theory it could live on fur or pet hair. However, there’s currently no evidence that companion animals can spread Covid-19 to people.
It’s best to follow standard good hygiene practices, such as regularly washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, especially after handling or feeding your pet. It's also possibly wise to reduce your contact with other dogs you don't know.
Should I go into a pub, cafe or tearoom after my walk?
All pubs, cafes or tearooms have now been ordered to close.
Should I go walking using public transport?
No. The official advice is not to use public transport unless you absolutely have to. Keep public transport clear for those who using a bus, train or tram is their only means of travel.
Our advice in the current situation is to #StayLocal.
Personal message from Andrew
We're all worried about the implications of this virus - on our family, friends and on the people we know. It's particularly worrying for a company like ours, whose mission - and indeed survival - is based on helping and inspiring people to get outside and walk.
All the evidence at the moment suggests getting outside and walking is probably the best thing we can do. We all know how good getting outside is for us - and with our everyday lives forced to change because of this virus, for no matter how short a time, going for a walk is probably more important than ever.
We've been continuing to be make new Walks Around Britain programmes. The production team have decided that we'll carry on for as long as possible making programmes - until we either become ill or are forced to stop by Government advice. The backroom team at WAB work remotely from home most of the time anyway, so normal service will be maintained as much as possible.
So, for as long as you are symptom-free, do keep getting outside - in your wider local area. Walking in the fresh air and wide open spaces remains one of the safest things you can do. Do buy a walking guide book or two and support the freelance writers who write them, the publishers who publish them and the independent book shops who sell them.
And please consider subscribing to our on-demand site Walks Around Britain+, where you'll be able to watch all the editions of Walks Around Britain whenever you want... and help us in what is a very challenging time for us - as it is for us all.
Keep yourself and your loved ones safe as much as you can. We'll get through this.
All our best wishes
Andrew White and the Walks Around Britain team