Government rebuffs Grant Shapps advice to only shop once-a-week during coronavirus outbreak

Grant Shapps appears on BBC Breakfast. Photograph: BBC.

Grant Shapps appears on BBC Breakfast. Photograph: BBC. - Credit: Archant

There is no specific restriction on the number of times people can go shopping, Downing Street said after a cabinet minister suggested a once-weekly limit in order to help combat coronavirus.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps suggested Britons should only buy the essentials in their weekly trip to the supermarket.

The official coronavirus guidance issued by the government had stated that shopping trips to pick up food or medicines should be 'as infrequent as possible'.

But Shapps told the BBC: 'People know the rules that have been set - try and shop just once a week.

'Just do the essentials, not everything else.'

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Asked about Shapps' comments on 'once a week' shopping trips, 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'.

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In the face of criticism about police tactics, Shapps said there had been 'one or two instances' of forces being overzealous with enforcement measures but they were generally being 'sensible'.

He said: 'I think the police are doing a difficult job.

'There will be one or two instances where they have perhaps not approached it in the right way but in general, actually, across the country not only are people complying very well but, generally speaking, the police are taking a very sensible approach to it.'

Shapps also said people should not be getting into cars to drive to the countryside to take their daily exercise.

'The simple thing is, if at all possible, please take exercise close to your home,' he said.

'I've got dogs and, rather than put them in the car and drive somewhere with them, it's about stepping out of the house and walking them around the block, or whatever it requires.'

However, the government guidance differs from what has actually been made law.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 for England, which were enacted on Thursday giving police powers to enforce rules with fines and even arrests, says: 'During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.'

A reasonable excuse includes to buy food and exercise.

The legislation does not specify - or limit - how many times per day someone can leave their house. Neither does it forbid people from using cars or any other vehicle in any circumstance.

Asked about Shapps' comments, the PM's spokesman said: 'The guidance in relation to only making journeys when necessary and shopping as infrequently as possible is very clear.'

In the last week the government has hired two Tory election chiefs to assist with promoting the key coronavirus messaging to the wider public.

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