Challenged over the prime minister’s trip on ITV’s This Morning, the home secretary insisted that lockdown rules were “clear”.
But she was unable to give an explanation of the guideline which states that outdoor exercise should be done within “your local area”.
Ms Patel also suggested that cycling, running and walking were allowed “because you’re on your own”, when in fact the rules state that they can be done with one person from another household.
And while she said that the regulations were not about to be changed, she was only able to say that this was the case “today and tomorrow”.
Ms Patel was challenged by presenters Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby over why Mr Johnson was able to go for a ride in the Olympic Park in east London, seven miles from Downing Street, when a pair of women were given £200 fines – later rescinded – for driving five miles to walk at a Derbyshire beauty spot.
“Where’s the clarity on that?” asked Willoughby.
Ms Patel replied: “Well local is local, so if you’re in a London borough, then clearly London boroughs are big places in terms of cycling and walking. But taking your daily exercise? People do exercise in so many different ways, Holly.” Willoughby pointed out that Mr Johnson had not remained within his borough of Westminster when he travelled to Stratford, and asked whether that meant he had broken the rules.
Ms Patel responded: “Well, London is a big geography in terms of cycling.
“You know, five miles, 10 miles, many people cycle big distances and that’s normal to them. People cycle according to their own health plans, their cycle plans, people have their own routes.”
The home secretary confirmed that the Derbyshire women had not broken coronavirus regulations by walking with coffees in a socially distanced way after driving separately to a reservoir near their homes.
And she said that a Covid marshal was wrong to stop a jogger for “breathing heavily” without a mask, telling Schofield and Willoughby: “You can’t run and wear a mask. That’s not practical, that’s not sensible.”
Attempting to explain how people should exercise their judgement on what exercise is permitted, the Home Secretary said: “The point to make about any exercise is it should be local. People exercise differently, but exercise on your own and don’t use it for a social meeting.
“There’s a fundamental difference there, because the point about the spread of the virus is that it spreads people to people.
“So if you’re exercising, cycling is fine because you’re on your own. You should not be cycling with other cyclists .
“Running, exactly the same, because you’re on your own. “Walking on your own and keeping proximity distance away from people and not going out to socialise.
“I want everyone just to be very conscientious when they go out to exercise, but also even when they go to the shops.
“‘Hands, face, space’. Wear your masks in shops and supermarkets.”