Back to Africa Check

South Africa’s exercise restrictions similar to French capital but stricter than UK

South Africa’s government announced a strict national lockdown in mid-March 2020 to slow the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. People were only allowed to leave their homes to get medical care, buy food or collect social grants.

On 1 May, the government eased some of the restrictions. Outside exercise is now allowed but it must take place within a 5 kilometre radius of your home between 6 and 9 am. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa justified this restriction in his 4 May newsletter

“Limitations on movement are in place in a number of countries. In the UK and the French capital, Paris, public exercise is limited to certain hours and within a certain distance of one’s home,” he wrote.

Khusela Diko, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, did not respond to questions about a source for this claim. Is the president right about exercise restrictions in the United Kingdom and Paris, France? We checked. 

UK grants more freedom than South Africa


The United Kingdom is a state made up of four historic countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each has different legal restrictions. A state-wide lockdown was announced on 23 March. It came into force on 26 March in England, Wales and Scotland, and on 28 March in Northern Ireland. 

In England restrictions allow a person to leave home “to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household”. There is no restriction on when or where people are allowed to exercise. A set of government guidelines does, however, advise people to limit themselves to “one form of exercise a day”, but this is not legally binding

Deputy chief constable Sara Glen, the national police lead for coronavirus fines in England, confirmed this to the Independent newspaper: “The law doesn’t say once a day, the law doesn’t specify what type of activity that would be.”

“There is no limit on how long you can exercise for, but you should spend as short a time away from your home as possible. Stay local if you can,” advises a government guide to the coronavirus outbreak. 

A separate guide, published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, gives some examples of reasons that are “likely to be reasonable” for a person leaving the house. These include exercising more than once per day and even driving to the countryside in order to walk for exercise.

Regulations in Scotland and Northern Ireland also do not limit when, where or how many times you can exercise each day. 

The restrictions differ in Wales, however, where people may “take exercise, no more than once a day”. But there is no limit on how long you may exercise for or in what areas.

How do the UK’s rules measure up to those in Paris?

Paris: one hour, once a day, 1 km from home


France has been under national lockdown since 17 March. All non-essential movements have been banned but some exercise is allowed

The country’s sports minister tweeted that exercise should take place between one and two kilometres from the home. 

“It is possible to jog for your balance but not 10 km!” he wrote in French. 



But some local authorities have introduced their own rules. 

In Paris, “outings for individual sports activities” may only take place before 10 am and after 7 pm “when the streets are the least crowded”. This is according to a joint press release issued by the city’s mayor and chief of police on 7 April. 

Later the same day, Paris’s deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire clarified that the rule applied specifically to joggers. Others may exercise once a day for one hour and within a 1 kilometre radius of their home. 

“Children should be able to go out a bit during the day. The same goes for animals. The goal is to avoid late morning and afternoon peaks,” Gregoire tweeted

Several areas elsewhere in France have since relaxed their restrictions but the capital maintains stricter restrictions, Nina Lamparski, head of AFP Fact Check Africa in Paris, told Africa Check. 

“These measures are meant to ease on 11 May if new Covid-19 cases remain below 3,000 a day. There will be another official announcement on 7 May,” she said. 

Further Reading