U.K. Relaxes Daily Exercise Rules for Certain Health Needs

(Bloomberg) --

U.K. authorities relaxed rules on daily exercise and travel during the coronavirus pandemic for those with specific conditions such as autism, after receiving complaints.

The rule change applies to people -- and their aides -- with a health condition that requires them to get outside two to three times a day to maintain their health, according to the new guidance from the U.K.’s Cabinet Office. This could include travel “beyond your local area,” the government said.

Those without specific medical needs are permitted to exercise outdoors once a day, and are advised to use open spaces near their home.

The shift in the U.K.’s position comes as courts in France and Italy have begun to overrule lockdown measures imposed by local mayors and other European countries including Austria and the Czech Republic prepare to begin relaxing aspects of their lockdowns. The U.K, which has suffered more than 7,000 deaths from the virus so far, is likely to keep restrictions in place for weeks longer.

Although the most important action people can take to save lives is to stay at home, “we understand that this will be more difficult for some,” a government spokesperson said in a statement. “That’s why we clarified the guidance regarding the needs of those with specific health conditions such as learning disabilities or autism.”

Bindmans, the law firm that contacted authorities about the need for changes on March 31, represents two families that have children with autistic spectrum disorder. The lawyers told the government they were prepared to take the case to court if the changes weren’t made.

“We are seeing a lot of families that aren’t receiving the support and services they had previously received and we are trying to help as many as we can,” lawyer Jamie Potter, who led the campaign, said by phone. “This provides comfort and clarity for many anxious families with children or grown-ups with particular conditions which require them to leave the house more than once a day.”

The firm is looking at more issues around the legality of measures imposed by the government and how they are affecting certain groups. One issue they’ve identified is that children with learning difficulties and autism are struggling to get professional care now that schools are closed.

One of the families Bindmans represented said the change in guidance “will enable us to support our autistic son’s needs, while maintaining social distancing, without fear of breaking the rules.”

“The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis for everyone, but humanity and compassion, as well as our basic rights, must still prevail,” they said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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