Runner stopped by Covid marshal for 'breathing heavily' during daily exercise

A jogger was stopped by a Covid marshal for ‘breathing heavily’ during his Government-mandated daily exercise.

Gary Purnell was told he was not allowed to run along the River Thames in Hammersmith, London as he jogged alone during the third national lockdown.

The fuming author has named the situation ‘the craziest thing ever’ – but the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council says he will ‘offer no apology’ for discouraging runners from using the area at busy times.

It comes as police vow to crack down on the ‘stay local’ exercise rule in order to ensure it is uniformly applied across England.

Footage of the incident shows Gary ask: ‘Can I run along here? Everyone else is running along here.’

The marshal replies ‘there are Covid marshals’ before confirming that he is employed as one.

Gary asks: ‘So why can’t I run along here? Why can’t he run along here? Explain.’

The marshal responds: ‘Because you are breathing heavily.’

A baffled Gary adds: ‘I’m breathing heavily? You don’t have to wear a mask outside. In the Government, it doesn’t say I cannot run.’

The marshal says: ‘I can’t stop you, I can only tell you that you can’t.’

Gary continues: ‘So you’re telling me I cannot run along here, along the waterfront where everyone is walking. And you stopped me to tell me that I need a mask?’

The runner is left confused as the marshal says he does not need a mask, before telling him ‘no bicycles or running allowed’.

A second video shows Gary confront the marshal’s supervisor who says: ‘You can run, it’s not a problem. What it is is when the people pass you by’.

He adds that marshals are not stopping people from exercising and are only advising.

The footage ends with Gary stating: ‘You have to admit this is the most crazy thing in the world.’

Commenting on the incident, Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, said a no-run policy was introduced in summer and is intended to protect vulnerable locals from coronavirus.

He told MailOnline: ‘The new strain of Covid is 70% more contagious than the first. London is an epicentre of the bigger second wave.

‘So, we make no apology for asking fit people vigorously exercising to be considerate to protect other, often elderly, people taking a more leisurely stroll. Runners and cyclists should please avoid the popular riverfront at busy times.’ 

Official government guidance on daily exercise states: ‘You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.’

A comment from the Department of Health and Social Care this week said: ‘The term “local area” in this context has not been legally defined.’

Police are currently discussing ways to tighten ‘stay local’ exercise rules with the Government, as travel restrictions become ‘a real challenge when it comes to exercise’. 

Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, of the The National Police Chief’s Council, said: ‘There was a deliberate effort to try to make it flexible initially so there was a degree of freedom of choice for people …. but that clearly is presenting other problems.’

He added: ‘Travel itself is not outlawed, not illegal. It is the activity itself and the circumstances of it, and that is where it gets into that realm of subjectivity. 

‘That is the big that challenges officers across the country and that presents differently in different areas of the country

‘What might be a problem in one area is not in another and that is where the challenge is for us at the moment. 

‘And that is something we are actively engaged in a conversation in at the moment, as to how we can develop that further.’

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