Coronavirus (Covid-19) Update18 min read

We thank you for visiting our website and hope that you remain safe and well.

Our office is only partially staffed at the moment, so responding to telephone calls or postal enquiries will take a little longer than usual, however you will find plenty of information and advice on this website, and we can readily answer queries by email or via our contact page. https://www.oss.org.uk/contact/

 

 

6 July

From 6th July the requirement to stay local has been lifted enabling people to travel in and into Wales. For more details about what you can and cannot now do to enjoy the outdoors in Wales, see this Welsh Government press release.

23 June

The Prime Minister has set out further changes to lockdown measures in England to enable people to see more of their friends and family and to open up some types of business.

Here is a link to some FAQs about what you can and can’t do in England after the 4th July.

For the most recent advice relating to outdoor activity in Wales see these FAQs.

14 June

The latest guidance for spending time outdoors in England is available here following the introduction of the support bubble concept.

5 June

If you visit the English or Welsh countryside during the coronavirus pandemic, please remember to follow the Countryside Code – poster summary here.

1 June

New regulations for England came into force today (SI 2020/558) which abolish the existing prohibition on leaving home without reasonable excuse,  Instead, there is now a prohibition on staying overnight away from home without reasonable excuse.  There is also a general prohibition on assembly (two or more people indoors, seven or more outdoors, unless from the same household) subject to certain exceptions.  In addition, various public-facing businesses are permitted to reopen, and further reopening is expected to be authorised from 15 June.

There is now no crisis-related legal restriction on people taking exercise or enjoying open spaces, rights of way and the countryside.  Exercise may be taken with up to five other people, provided that (while together) they remain outdoors at all times.  Guidance asks that they should also maintain social distancing.

Everyone should continue to act wherever possible so as to remain safe from contagion, and to keep others safe.  Current Government guidance can be found here.

Specific guidance on accessing green spaces safely in England here.

 

If you live in Wales general advice about Covid-19 can be found here. (www.gov/wales) and some useful FAQ updated on the 11 May can be found here.

 

13 May

The government has published a range of guides for the phased return of outdoor sport and recreation. There is detail for the public about horse-riding, visiting beaches and the companions you can choose for example, here.

 

11 May

Government guidance on exercise has changed, although at the time of writing, regulations restricting leaving the home have not. The latest guidance in England is here. We will update this site once the regulations have been amended.

Revised guidance in Wales is here.

 

24 April

Updated guidance from Natural Resources Wales   (Version in Welsh here)

The Welsh Government has today (24/4) announced changes to the Covid regulations, as well as publishing new guidance – this follows the first statutory 3-week review of the emergency regulations and replaces those from 8 April.

Please find below a stakeholder briefing form Welsh Government on recent Covid-related developments.

Review of regulations and new guidance

The Welsh Government has today (24/4) announced changes to the Covid regulations, as well as publishing new guidance – this follows the first statutory 3-week review of the emergency regulations. Links to the revised rules:-

https://gov.wales/revised-coronavirus-rules-for-wales-unveiled .

https://llyw.cymru/datgelu-rheolau-coronafeirws-adolygedig-ar-gyfer-cymru?_

As part of these changes, guidance on exercise has been published which provides greater clarity over type and duration of acceptable forms of exercise, and gives further advice on the use of travelling by vehicle for exercising. The guidance also acknowledges that people with specific health conditions or disabilities may benefit from outdoor exercise more than once a day, and lifts the restrictions in these circumstances:-

https://gov.wales/leaving-home-exercise-guidance

https://llyw.cymru/gadael-y-cartref-i-wneud-ymarfer-corff-canllawiau?_

Framework

Also today (24/4), First Minister Mark Drakeford has published a framework and seven key questions to help lead Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The framework will help to determine when the strict stay-at-home restrictions can begin to be relaxed in Wales and will help to find a way for people in Wales to live and work alongside coronavirus. It includes the development of a Wales-wide programme of surveillance, case identification, and contact tracing and highlights the importance of community testing to contain emerging coronavirus infections as and when restrictions are eased. The framework is based on three pillars:-

  1. The measures and evidence by which the current infection level and transmission rates for coronavirus in Wales will be judged.
  2. The principles by which proposed measures to ease the current restrictions will be evaluated, grounded in both scientific evidence and wider social and economic impacts.
  3. How surveillance and response system will be enhanced to enable close tracking of the virus as restrictions are eased.

The Welsh Government has worked closely with the rest of the UK throughout the pandemic and has shared the development of the framework with the Scottish, Northern Irish and the UK governments.

Centralised list of closures

Specific guidance on the Coronavirus Regulations in relation to rights of way and access land, along with a centralised list of links to individual Authority closures is now available on the Welsh Government website via the following links:-

https://gov.wales/public-rights-way-and-access-land-closures

https://llyw.cymru/cau-hawliau-tramwy-cyhoeddus-thir-mynediad?_

Police Guidance on exercise

Following queries from stakeholders regarding the recent England-only publication from the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) and the subsequent BBC news article that suggested it may be acceptable to drive farther afield for exercise, Welsh Government can confirm that the four police forces in Wales are not adopting this guidance.

 

 

8 April

Guidance on Public Rights of Way / Access Land under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020

In response to the events on the weekend of 21 and 22 March, when large numbers of people congregated at popular tourist routes in Wales, the Welsh Government introduced new legislation to limit the risk of spreading the Covid19 virus. This legislation enabled emergency closures of selected paths and areas of open access land by Local Authorities, National Park Authorities, National Resources Wales and the National Trust.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 placed a duty on them to close certain rights of way or access land which they considered likely to attract large numbers of people and hence prevent effective social distancing. The duties also extended to keeping these closures under review and amending as necessary.
However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so Welsh Government do not wish to discourage people from leaving their homes for exercise once a day. Hence these limited closures are targeted to prevent overcrowding in specific areas only, and widespread closures of the rights of way network are to be avoided.
Following the lockdown landowners have raised concerns about increased use of public rights of way on their property, increased numbers of dogs, and perceived risks of exposure to Covid19 for residents and farm workers, particularly where family members are either vulnerable and/or self-isolating.

To help address this we have published guidance: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-stay-active-stay-healthy-stay-local and increased messaging around responsible recreation e.g. the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn AM has issued a statement appealing to people to exercise responsibly in the countryside and reminding dog-owners of the need to keep dogs on leads in the vicinity of livestock.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing and follow hygiene advice.

Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or access land. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes or where residents are vulnerable or self-isolating, landowners may consider the following measures:

• temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens or farmyards.

• Note: this is a polite request only, and there is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) or the Highways Act 1980 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way or use of access land

• offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained.

Key points to Note under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Highways Act 1980

• Under Section 137 the Highways Act 1980 and section 14 of CROW it is an offence to obstruct the free passage along a public right of way or Access Land.
• It is an offence under Section 57 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to display a notice that contains “any false or misleading statement likely to deter the public from using” a right of way.
• It is also an offence under section 14 of CROW to display a sign which deters the public from exercising their right to use that access land
• It is an offence under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 to display on the surface of a public right of way or on any tree or structure within the public right of way any unauthorised sign or mark.
• Land owners may be liable for personal injury under section 2 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and Section 1 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 if they are reckless or intend to create a risk – for example by offering a dangerous alternative.
This means that
• If a land owner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way or use of access land is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice.
• A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way or use of access land.

These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.

 

 

 

4 April

Public Rights of Way under the Highways Act 1980 and use of Access Land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000: Covid-19

Updated guidance from Defra

“The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home.  However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental well-being, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day.

Defra has been advised by the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) and the CLA that some landowners are still concerned about increased use of public rights of way on their property increasing the risk to livestock, such as instances of gates being left open and dogs not being controlled.

To help address this Defra will publish a supplementary video on social media in advance of this weekend, reminding people to follow the Countryside Code. This will be published on Twitter @DefraGovUK and Defra’s Facebook page. We encourage you to share this with your members and networks.

Finally, further concerns have been raised by stakeholders that the use of public rights of way that run through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to residents and farm workers.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.

Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or access land. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:

• tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.

• temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.

• Note: this is a polite request only, and there is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) or the Highways Act 1980 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way or use of access land

• offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained.

Key points to Note under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Highways Act 1980
• Under Section 137 the Highways Act 1980 and section 14 of CROW it is an offence to obstruct the free passage along a public right of way or Access Land.
• It is an offence under Section 57 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to display a notice that contains “any false or misleading statement likely to deter the public from using” a right of way.
• It is also an offence under section 14 of CROW to display a sign which deters the public from exercising their right to use that access land
• It is an offence under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 to display on the surface of a public right of way or on any tree or structure within the public right of way any unauthorised sign or mark.
• Land owners may be liable for personal injury under section 2 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and Section 1 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 if they are reckless or intend to create a risk – for example by offering a dangerous alternative.

This means that
• If a land owner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way or use of access land is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice.
• A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way or use of access land.

These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.”

3 April

Access to Green Space

Ahead of this weekend Defra is sharing its updated guidance on access to green spaces, which is published on GOV.UK

Defra is encouraging people to stay at home despite the warm weather, and ask that you too send similar messages to your members. You can see the latest Prime Minister’s Tweet on this here . Today Defra is also posting its ‘stay local, exercising safely’ video on our @DefraGovUK Twitter account, which you can retweet to reach your audiences.

Defra will continue to update the ‘rolling news story’ on GOV.UK so the guidance remains in line with latest central government messaging. It will also begin adding to a ‘Frequently Asked Question’ section on the same page to respond to bespoke issues such as public rights of way, pest control and waterways.

Please use the following guidance in order to stay safe:
• stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily
• you should only go outside alone or with members of your own household
• keep at least 2 metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times
• gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this
• if you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air
• take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors
• if walking your dog in areas used by other people, you should walk your dog on a lead to ensure you can safely keep 2 metres away from others. You can find further guidance for pet owners here.

Please see the latest government guidance on social distancing.
The Cabinet Office has also published the following: Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do.
Please be aware that if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19) or at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, then you must stay at home. See the latest guidance from Public Health England.

 

30 March

Changes in Wales

The Welsh Government has made regulations (which are subject to retrospective approval by the National Assembly) which require the closure of public paths, byways, access land and National Trust land at honeypots where people are liable to congregate, or ‘the use of which otherwise poses a high risk to the incidence or spread of infection in its area with the coronavirus’. The duty is imposed on county and county borough councils, National Park authorities, Natural Resources Wales and the National Trust.

Closures must be advertised on the website of the body which closed them. At present, about half of those bodies which have a duty to act have advertised closures. These include extensive closures of access land and paths in the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia National Parks, and parts of the coastal path (particularly in Pembrokeshire National Park). So far as we are aware, many bodies with closure powers have not closed any land or paths. Closures must be kept under review to see if they remain necessary.

The society recognises that, at the present time, it is right to exclude the public from honeypot sites, but is concerned that widespread and extensive closures are unnecessary and counter-productive. In some cases, they may mean that local people have no lawful place where they can take exercise locally, other than on paved roads, and that less frequented places may become popular, and higher risk, simply because other places are denied to the public. And we urge bodies which have effected closures to work with stakeholders in keeping them under review.

The society also asks the Welsh Government to prepare evidence-based guidance on the duty to close paths or land ‘the use of which otherwise poses a high risk to the incidence or spread of infection in its area with the coronavirus’ (r.9(2)(b)). Leaving aside honeypots or other paths where people are likely to be in close proximity (such as a narrowly-confined but popular path by a river), and where the duty to close arises under r.9(2)(a), the society seeks clarification of what use might pose a ‘high risk’ of infection? While there are many paths which pass through or by farms or homes, existing guidance suggests that the likelihood of infection from passers-by is negligible provided social distancing is maintained — just as it is in residential streets. The society would welcome guidance which is founded in epidemiological analysis as to whether surface-based contamination (for example, on stile handposts or gate fittings) is likely to pose a risk in the context of open-air path furniture exposed to sunlight and rain, the scale of any such risk, and what measures path users, landowners and farmers can take to minimise any such risk while encouraging public use in accordance with the regulations, the Countryside Code and sensible hygienic precautions.

 

27 March 2020

Access to green spaces and public right of way use

The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home.
However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day.

Please use the following guidance in order to stay safe and protect others:

Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily.

You should only go outside alone or with members of your own household.

Keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times.

Take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors. Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.

Gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this.

If you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air.

Follow the Countryside Code. Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home. Keep dogs under effective control and leave gates as you find them or follow instructions on signs.

Respect other people and protect the natural environment. Remember your actions can affect people’s lives and livelihoods.

Please see the latest government guidance on social distancing.

Please be aware that if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19) or at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, then you must stay at home. See the latest guidance from Public Health England.

 

 

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