UK lockdown: Can you drive during lockdown?

Lockdowns have been seen in parts of China, Italy, France and the United States in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The British Government has closed schools, advised against mass gatherings and urged everyone to avoid non-essential social contact. Boris Johnson rushed in an emergency law in March as the UK went into lockdown.

The coronavirus outbreak forced the UK into a lockdown.

In particular, speculation about a lockdown in London has arisen in recent days, especially as there have been 3,919 COVID-19 cases in the capital.

In total, there have been more than 98,476 cases of coronavirus in the UK, of which 12,868 have died.

The Prime Minister officially declared lockdown measures in the UK in March.

You now must stay at home and only leave the house in a small number of instances.

Last week, Boris Johnson’s deputy Dominic Raab extended the lockdown for at least three more weeks.



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Can you drive during a lockdown?

Lockdowns around the world have differed depending on the country.

The first country to put a lockdown into force was Wuhan City in China on January 23.

Chinese authorities banned travel in or out of the city, even for those who had compelling medical or humanitarian reasons.

Inside the city, all public transportation was suspended and private cars were barred from roads.

In Italy, a lockdown was first put into effect in the northern region, before it was extended nationwide two days later.

Public transport remains operational, but movement is severely restricted.

Travel is only allowed for “urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies or health reasons.”

People who do want to travel will need to fill in a document explaining their reasons for doing so and carry it with them.

Those who lie face a jail term of up to three months or a fine of €206 (£190).

To further avoid travel, companies have been prompted to put their staff on leave with only supermarkets and pharmacies remaining open.

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France instigated a lockdown on Tuesday, March 17 at midday.

In theory all French citizens are confined at home and should work from there.

For essential trips outside the home, French citizens must sign a document stating where they are going.

You are only permitted to travel outside your home to buy food and essentials, attend medical appointments and for vital family reasons.

Breaking these rules means people face a fine of €135 (£125).

Can you drive if the UK imposes a lockdown?

The coronavirus outbreak has already had an impact to British motorists.

All driving tests in Northern Ireland have been suspended from Friday for three months, while in the UK all tests on Thursday and Friday have been postponed as an “initial period”.

For current drivers, driving is still permitted for those practicing social distancing.

For anyone who is social distancing, you are permitted to drive.

These individuals are advised to be cautious at petrol stations, making sure to wear disposable gloves when pumping petrol and trying to use self-service pumps or keep a safe distance inside when paying.

Britons have been ordered to stay at home and only leave their home for a small number of circumstances for at least the next three weeks.

What do the police say about driving?

Weymouth and Portland Police, based in Dorset, posted on Facebook: “Officers have been stopping and speaking to motorists in the area following the government restrictions.

“A number of people we have spoken to have told us they are travelling elsewhere to exercise or walk their dogs.

“This is not an essential journey, and the current interpretation is that any exercise you do should start and finish at your home address.

“Please do your bit and follow the government advice. It is for a good reason.

“Unless you absolutely have to travel, stay at home.”

The “very limited” reasons you are permitted to leave your home include: 

  • Shopping for basic necessities like food and medicine, with Downing Street saying you should do this “as infrequently as possible” and use food delivery services “where you can”
  • One form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk or cycle, which can be done alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to give care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only if this is “absolutely necessary” and cannot be done from home.

On Good Morning Britain, Dr Hilary Jones advised Britons to avoid going out in their cars in case they have an accident.

He said having an accident would mean contact with others and could could lead people to end up in hospital, putting more pressure on the NHS, causing additional struggles amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Addiionally, Dr Hilary said you will need to refuel your car which will mean touching the pump and card machine, exposing you and others to greater risk of spreading the virus.

However, there are no specific rules against driving for the outlined special circumstances alone.

Authorities will have the power to issue fines and detain those who disrespect these conditions.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) published a document last week to outline the lockdown regulations and provide further insight about the rules.

The document outlined the legal basis for police and whether someone has a “reasonable excuse”.

The document categorically states it is “lawful to drive for exercise”.

However, driving for a prolonged period for only brief exercise would “not likely” be a reasonable excuse.

The guide reads: “Exercise can come in many forms, including walks.

“Exercise must involve some movement, but it is acceptable for a person to stop for a break in exercise.

“However, a very short period of ‘exercise’ to excuse a long period of inactivity may mean that the person is not engaged in ‘exercise’ but in fact something else.

“It is lawful to drive for exercise.”

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