On Wednesday the Prime Minister announced a new tranche of restrictions on social gatherings to tackle the spread of the Covid virus. From Monday, the maximum number of people who can meet for social purposes will be reduced from 30 to six.
This obviously has the potential to impact a range of rural activities. The announcement, however, also confirmed that organised outdoor activities - as well as competitive team sports - with Covid protocols in place would be exempt from the restrictions. Over the last two days we have been in discussion with Ministers and officials about the definition of organised outdoor activities and the steps that will need to be taken for such activities to be exempted.
Game shooting has been carrying on since 12th August with strict Covid protocols, which have been agreed by all the relevant shooting organisations and issued to their memberships. Trail hunts have just started their season, operating to similarly stringent protocols prepared and distributed by the Hunting Office on behalf of the various governing bodies.
It would be possible in some circumstances to carry out shooting and hunting activity in discreet groups of no more than six people, but in many others it would not. We will therefore be continuing to press the Government to ensure that organised rural activities that are properly regulated and provide no more risk than other exempted sporting events will be able to continue. There cannot be a question of ‘if’ shooting and hunting can continue, but we must be certain that ‘how’ they are carried out reduces the risks to an absolute minimum.
We are all more than aware of the need to be cautious about the spread of Covid and the safety of our communities. This must, however, be balanced against the economic and social impact of restrictions on the countryside.