No 10 slaps down Shapps over ‘shop once a week’ comment | World news

No 10 has clarified that people can go out to buy food more than once a week, after the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, mistakenly said shopping trips should be limited.

In yet another example of mixed messaging from the government, Shapps told the public that they should only leave the house for essentials once a week.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “People know the rules that have been set. Try and shop just once a week – just, you know, just do the essentials not everything else.”

What do the restrictions involve?

People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:

  • Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.

However, Downing Street corrected Shapps, saying that the advice on people leaving home was clear and did not set a specific limit on how often they could do so for shopping.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The guidance does not specify that, no. The guidance says it should be ‘as infrequent as possible’.”

For some people “their judgment will be that that will be once a week, but it’s not what the guidance specifies,” he said.

Shapps is not the first cabinet minister to give their own interpretation of the guidance. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said over the weekend that people should be walking for up to an hour and jogging for up to half an hour, which is not specified in the official advice.

Police forces have also been accused of being overzealous in their application of the guidance, with some officers telling people they cannot rest during exercise or should not be buying “non-essential” items such as Easter eggs – neither of which is prohibited.

Christine Jardine, the Lib Dem home affairs spokeswoman, said the government needed to clarify its message.

“With police taking wildly different approaches to enforcing social distancing measures and ministers’ off-the-cuff remarks adding to the confusion, it’s no wonder people are uncertain about what the government expects of them during this crisis,” she said.

“The vast majority are keen to comply with advice and will do whatever it takes to keep themselves and others safe by curbing the spread of the virus.

“However, the government must make every effort to be absolutely clear about what the expectations are and why they are necessary. Mixed messages from ministers only add to the chaos and fuel anxiety.”

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