Covid-19 / Coronavirus and walking in the United Kingdom
Rules and advice for walkers
Covid-19 restrictions are returning - masks are now compulsory on public transport and in shops
Vaccines, with boosters after ~ 5 months remain effective, but daily infections remain high, and winter has arrived...
Note: each nation's system of "levels" is different!
Alert level 0
- You must not leave home if you have been told to self quarantine, or if you have any of the covid-19 symptoms
- NHS Covid app recommended
Special measures for groups
The "extra measures" for groups vary between nations, but have included
- a written "formal risk assessment" or "event delivery plan"
- a formal contact tracing system
- a covid-19 compliance officer (Scotland)
- Sport Scotland has a covid-19 compliance officer e-learning course (free) which would be useful for club's from the rest of the UK too
Life back to (near) normal for now, but be aware of: winter (less ventilation), school term time (more mixing), new variants
It is crazy that the 4 nations have their own sets of obfuscated rules, rather than a common set of clear and simple levels
Advice for everyone
- Check for local "tier" restrictions / lockdowns and parking restrictions before travelling
- You should avoid public transport if possible
- Avoid honey pot destinations and popular paths. Have a plan B if your first choice is too busy.
- Choose routes to avoid narrow paths where social distancing is hard (think Striding Edge or a canal tow path)
- Keep your distance when walking uphill (and a few minutes afterwards) as people breathe out far more aerosol particles during strenuous exercise
- Use a mask when 2m social distancing is not possible - at pinch points on the path, trailhead car parks, toilets
- Be covid-19 aware of frequently touched surfaces (e.g. in toilets, gates/styles) - hand sanitiser!
- Be considerate in social-distancing from other people on the path
- Keep dogs on leads where there may be other people or livestock
- Be considerate of local people (especially those working on the land) who may feel threatened by outside visitors
- Landowners may re-route public footpaths away from their houses and farmyards during the pandemic. Respect this if possible.
- Walk within your ability (so as not to put your rescuers in danger). Rescue might take longer than normal (check weather, waterproofs, bright clothing, map, compass, charged phone, spare battery)
- Only plan trips that can be cancelled at the last minute without loss so you don't feel the need to take chances with self-quarantine / covid-19 symptoms
Advice for organised walking groups
Mountaineering Scotland (recommended), has detailed advice and a sample group event risk assessment.
- Consider the risk profile (e.g. age, health) of your members
- Take details for contact tracing, and keep for 21 days.
- Don't share maps, etc.
- Masks are not mandatory outside in fresh air but maintain social distancing from one another during the walk as much as possible.
- Masks are advisable in honeypot areas / pinch points / trailheads.
- Everyone should bring a mask in case there is an accident and help needs to be given to another person (breaking the 2m rule).
- Be covid-19 aware when socialising after the walk. After a few beers, people forget about social distancing.
- You should not car share. If you do, open windows and masks advised. Car share is banned for people from or in areas of stage 2 or 3 lockdown
- When not walking (travelling to/from the walk, during lunch, socialising afterwards) the lower 6 people size limit applies!
- When in a pub/café, their rules apply, not the outdoor group rules.
- Plan for group members who refuse to be Covid-19 compliant
Our club's policy
- walks are chosen bearing in mind: a) train departure times (i.e. avoid busy times), b) circular walks for drivers, c) narrow paths, d) popular areas
- contact details taken - anyone who refuses may not walk with the group
- split into sub-groups with a strict maximum of 6 people each at the start
- sub-groups asked not to cross-mix later while socialising or travelling home by train
- walkers from tier 2 areas may not socialise indoors
- Use eye protection (i.e. wrap around glasses) and a face mask at pinch points.
- When entering a pub or café, visually check their covid-19 compliance as some places aren't serious. Too many people? Not enough ventilation? Staff (& the chief!) not wearing masks? Tables too close together? Too noisy (e.g. TV or background music on, causing people to shout, and breathe out more)? If at all unsure, give it a miss.
- If OK, ideally sit outside. Use a mask when going to the toilet.
- Bring a sandwich so there is always an alternative.
- Article on how covid-19's aerosol transmission : Ventilation (or being outside!), length of exposure, and not speaking are more important than masks. Or to put it another way, after 4 hours, most people in a room will catch it, even if they are wearing masks, if there is no ventilation and the infected person is speaking.
Travel & Accommodation
- B&Bs, Airbnbs, and hotels are now open to walkers again
- In smaller places the owners will want to speak to you about your covid-19 compliance before booking, and social distance from you when you arrive.
- The Rambler's (walking's "governing body") have not produced guidance for walking clubs
- That each nation has its own policy does not help. Ministers make announcements, but the Government websites (which are obfuscated and contradictory anyway) aren't updated until a few days later. Kudos to Mountaineering Scotland and Sport Scotland for being clear and concise.
- The rules need to be simple and clear. Wading through and trying to decipher the 4 nation's covid-19 websites for the outdoor leisure, and outdoor group rules wasn't easy!
- Do they think every member of the public, and every single walking/cycling/etc. group is going to do that before going for a walk?