COVID-19: what is a reasonable excuse for being outside during lockdown?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
April 22, 2020, 8:52 AM GMT+0

YouGov asks the public what they think are valid reasons for leaving the house, and compares them against what the police are saying

With several examples of police officers over-zealously enforcing lockdown rules in the last few weeks, a document by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing has been released providing guidance to officers in England on what can and cannot be considered a reasonable excuse for leaving the house.

To see how far the public view of ‘reasonable’ matches with the police’s view, YouGov put 27 different scenarios to Britons and asked whether or not they considered them to be valid.

There is only one excuse that the public tend to think is okay but the police do not. Half of Brits (51%) said they considered “buying paint and brushes to redecorate a kitchen” to be an acceptable reason to leave the house. Fewer than four in ten (39%) think this is an unreasonable excuse for being out and about.

There are also several excuses that the police say are okay but the public tend to disagree with.

Police guidance say that exercising outside more than once a day is reasonable (assuming that the form of exercise itself is reasonable), but 53% of Britons say they don’t think this should be allowed.

Half of Britons (50%) also feel that “moving to a friend's address for several days to allow a 'cooling-off' following arguments at home” is not acceptable, but police advice is that this is okay. Only 34% find themselves on the same side of the argument as the cops.

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Police guidance in this regard is that the move is only acceptable if the time spent at the friend’s address is “measured in days, not hours”. When asked whether they thought spending a few hours at a friend’s place was allowed, the number saying no rose to 64%.

The biggest disagreement between public and police is over practicing yoga in the park. The police listed this as an example of reasonable exercise, yet fully 63% of Brits believe this to be an unreasonable reason for leaving the home. Just 28% felt that doing a downward dog in the local park is a fair reason for being outside. This contrasts with the 91-95% of Brits who were fine with the other forms of exercise police listed – walking, running and cycling.

Younger Brits think its okay to head to the vet or doctor for a prescription

There are only two excuses for being outside where Britons of different ages found themselves disagreeing. In both cases, it was 18 to 24 year olds saying it was reasonable while their elders did not.

By 44% to 36%, 18 to 24 year olds think it is reasonable to visit a vet in person to renew a prescription. All other age groups disagree, however, with 51-57% saying it is unreasonable and only 32-34% thinking it is reasonable.

Similarly, 18 to 24 year olds think it is okay to visit a doctor’s surgery to renew a prescription by 46% to 39%. Older age groups disagree, particularly the eldest, with 65% of those aged 55 and up saying this is unreasonable.

On other measures there was a noticeable difference in how age groups felt, even though the majority in each generation felt the same way. When it comes to attending an allotment – which the police say is ok – 59% of Brits aged 18 to 24 said they thought this was ok. Their elders are even more likely to think so, with this figure rising with each age group before reaching 86% of those aged 55 and above.

Likewise, when it comes to going for a long drive and a short walk – which the police say is unreasonable – 28% of 18 to 24 year olds think this is okay, a figure that declines with age to a low of 8% among those 55 and over.

See the full results here

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