The Network represents more than 30 Commissioners from across rural England, as well as other organisations who promote a greater understanding of the countryside.
Chair Julia Mulligan, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, now says there is a real risk that many more people will travel to rural towns, villages and countryside because the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing say this is ‘likely to be reasonable’.
This guidance, which is said to be based on Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance, goes against what had been previously understood – that exercise should be completed locally to someone’s home, to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Julia Mulligan said:
“The main message from government and scientists is that to tackle Coronavirus we need to stay at home. These new guidelines go completely against that and are hugely unhelpful in the efforts we are making in rural Britain to stop people travelling to our communities and spreading this virus.
“People need to stay healthy and exercise, but I believe they should have to do that close to their home. Saying individuals and families can travel long distances into the countryside has alarmed many for whom that is their home – it has the potential to strain services in already struggling communities, stretches police resources and even adds strain to the NHS which is working so hard to keep us all safe.
“We know that rural residents can be more likely to be in the government’s definition of ‘vulnerable’, due to age, and are made more vulnerable still by the sheer distance from medical care and lack of infrastructure. This will not help with that.
“We need an urgent review of these new guidelines and I will be having discussions with Ministers, the College of Policing, police leaders and my fellow Commissioners in the days ahead.”
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