Coronavirus: Change to guidance 'nothing to do' with Gething chips row

  • Published
Vaughan GethingImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Vaughan Gething (pictured) was entitled to privacy, Mark Drakeford said

New guidance permitting people to sit and eat while out exercising had nothing to do with a tabloid newspaper story about Wales' health minister, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

He said Vaughan Gething was entitled to privacy when he was pictured sitting eating chips with his family.

Mr Gething was seen over the weekend - the guidance changed on Monday.

The Welsh Government had previously advised against "having a picnic" while out for exercise.

In Wednesday's virtual Senedd session Mr Drakeford was repeatedly challenged about the Sun newspaper story.

Conservative politicians questioned whether Mr Gething had been within the rules as they had stood before the changes.

The health minister, when he tweeted ahead of publication on Tuesday, said the story was "really disappointing".

He said he had been on a walk with his wife and young son, who was "was hungry and we bought some chips - all within the rules".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Welsh Conservative South Wales Central Member of the Senedd Andrew RT Davies asked: "If any individual purchased food, eat it on a public bench, they would clearly be breaking the rules - should they apologise?"

"I'm not going to get drawn into this sort of personality bashing approach to the virus," Mr Drakeford replied.

He said the question was "simply designed to attack an individual out with their family entitled, I would say, to some privacy in the way they were going about things and who will speak for himself".

The matter was raised again by Tory Clwyd West MS Darren Millar, who said "many people may think" the guidance was changed because of the story.

"It looks to the public it's one rule for the health minister and another rule for them," he said, asking when he would be removed.

'Brief stop not a picnic'

Mr Drakeford said a "brief stop to allow a child to eat is not a picnic in anybody's language".

"The decisions that the Welsh Government made on the measures that we were going to change were made on Thursday of last week. They were made in a cabinet meeting," he said.

"Nothing to do with any incident that he's referring to," he told Mr Millar, telling him to stop implying it.

Carwyn Jones, former first minister and Labour MS for Bridgend, added: "Nobody fair, rational or indeed proportional in any way would see that as being anything wrong."

What does the new guidance say?

People in Wales are now allowed to exercise more than once a day, and guidance on how they can do that under lockdown was also updated on Monday.

Previously guidance on exercise in Wales specifically warned against using exercise as an excuse "to undertake other activity", giving "having a picnic or spending a prolonged period on a park bench" as an example.

Welsh Government adverts have also warned against people having picnics.

But, in simplified advice, exercise guidance now states that activity "incidental to that which is good for people's health or wellbeing is also considered to be reasonable".

"Going for a walk and also stopping to have something to eat or sit in a park, for example, is intended to be permitted," the guidance states.

But it says most of the time away from the home should be spent exercising.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Advice to cyclists has now been relaxed

The new guidance also relaxes the advice given to cyclists after criticism from cycling groups.

Previous wording that cycling "should be local, as a rule of thumb limited to travelling no further than a reasonable walking distance from home" has been removed.

A line stating that "exercising by cycling significant distances from home is not considered to be a reasonable excuse for leaving home" has also been taken out.