Grant Shapps slapped down after saying Brits should 'only shop once a week'

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said people should only go to the shops once a week. (PA)

The government has been forced to clarify a statement by transport secretary Grant Shapps who said people should only go food shopping once a week during the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Shapps told people to "try and shop just once a week – just do the essentials, not everything else" in a message which has now been discredited by the government.

No10 confirmed Grant Shapps went beyond official guidance and said it does not exist either in official government guidance or in the law.

Government guidance says to go shopping for essentials "as infrequently as possible" but does not set a limit on the number of visits.

A view of empty shelves in an Asda supermarket in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire. (PA)

People have been asked to use their common sense since the law currently also sets no limit on the number of times they can go shopping for "basic necessities".

Boris Johnson's official spokesman was forced to clarify the situation on Tuesday after people raised fears for the vulnerable, elderly or large families that cannot do a weekly shop without a car.

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Some police forces have been accused of heavy-handed tactics in enforcing the lockdown restrictions imposed by the Government.

Shapps acknowledged there had been “teething problems” but said people should follow the rules.

“People know the rules that have been set, try and shop just once a week,” he told the BBC, “Just do the essentials, not everything else.”

Shapps said there had been “one or two instances” of police being overzealous with enforcement measures but forces were generally being “sensible”.

He said: “I think the police are doing a difficult job.

“There will be one or two instances where they have perhaps not approached it in the right way but in general, actually, across the country not only are people complying very well but, generally speaking, the police are taking a very sensible approach to it.”

The transport secretary also said people should not be getting into cars to drive to the countryside to take their daily exercise.

Customers queue between social distancing markers on the pavement outside a supermarket in London. (PA)

“The simple thing is, if at all possible, please take exercise close to your home,” he told the BBC.

“I’ve got dogs and, rather than put them in the car and drive somewhere with them, it’s about stepping out of the house and walking them around the block, or whatever it requires.”

However, the government guidance differs from what has actually been made law.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 for England, which were enacted on Thursday giving police powers to enforce rules with fines and even arrests, says: “During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

A reasonable excuse includes to buy food and exercise.

The legislation does not specify – or limit – how many times per day someone can leave their house. Neither does it forbid people from using cars or any other vehicle in any circumstance.

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