Can Londoners go outside, how often, who with, and should we all wear a mask?

Written by
Laura Richards
mask wearer in London
Photograph: Andrea Angelini /

With government guidelines changing on a near-daily basis and with plenty of conjecture flying around in the family WhatsApp group, it can feel a little difficult to know where you stand in London during lockdown. Here’s the latest on all the key questions you might have when it comes to going out – and staying in – in our city right now. 

So I can still go outside – I thought we were all staying in?

Last updated on March 29, the UK government’s guidelines on ‘staying at home and away from others (social distancing)’ outline how we can all reduce the spread of coronavirus by limiting our movements around the capital. And yes, that means staying at home ‘except for very limited purposes’. 

But, within the measures that came fully into effect on Monday March 23, there are a few instances under which Londoners can leave the house. They include shopping for essential food and medicine, and one form of exercise a day, as well as any urgent medical need and travelling to work for key workers. 

Can I still do my regular supermarket spree?  

Rylan Clark wannabes better back down. Shopping trips should be as infrequent as possible, and done via online delivery wherever available – particularly for those older or more vulnerable Londoners deemed to be more ‘at risk’.

Supermarkets in London have also started to introduce their own measures for safeguarding staff and shoppers, with socially distanced queues introduced (at least two metres apart, please) and customers asked to shop solo rather than making it a weekly family outing.  

But it might be time for us all to take up that team sport we never had time for before? 

Unfortunately, you’ll have to save the contact sports for indoors. Public gatherings of more than two people have been banned, and last week Michael Gove further clarified current advice on your solo forms of outdoor exercise at the government’s daily briefing: no golf! 

So what is allowed? A run, walk or cycle is totally above board – you’re just limited to doing it once a day.  

And what if I go for a socially distanced run with my friend? 

That’s off the cards, too. Jogging, walking and cycling can only be a solo pursuit or something you do with members of your household – be that family members, your significant other, your flatmates, or just crazy Suze who you found via Spareroom.  

Round my block isn’t the most scenic spot – can I just jump in the car for a change of scene? 

Er, that’s also a ‘no’. Experts have expressed concerns over the impact this could have on local health services in areas of outstanding beauty. The UK’s National Parks have asked visitors to stay away to maintain the safety of residents, while the National Trust has now closed all its sites.    

And what about protection? I’m seeing more and more masks on my daily constitutional in the capital.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently states that healthy people should only wear a face mask if caring for a person who is suspected of being infected with Covid-19. And that those coughing and sneezing should also mask-up. Mask-wearing is only effective if combined with good hand-washing and hygiene practices. There’s a whole host of information, best-practice guidelines and myth-busting to find on the WHO’s website.

Ultimately, the advice across the board is to stay at home and stay safe, London. 

Check out pictures of the new Nightingale Hospital that Londoners built in under a fortnight.

Find ways you can help your community (and get help for yourself) during London’s lockdown.

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