People Are Really Stretching the Definition of 'Essential Errands' During Quarantine

The pandemic hasn't stopped people from making stupid trips for stupid things. Exhibit A: This guy who drove 240 miles to buy bread.
person driving errands
Photo: Getty Images

There's a great exchange during the sixth season of Peep Show, when the eternally hapless Jeremy decides to make a 60-plus-mile trip to buy a loaf of spelt-flour bread for his would-be girlfriend. "It's a selfless act," he said. "I mean, Hastings is a really long, long way away. It's in Kent or somewhere stupid."

He does spend the day traveling from south London to Sussex—it's not in Kent, by the way—and back, and his fresh-baked gesture isn't fully appreciated when he hands it over that night. But at least he didn't get stopped by the cops for going over 100 miles per hour on his unnecessary bread run, which is more than one guy can say.


On Sunday, the Leicestershire Roads Policing Unit (RPU) tweeted that its officers had just stopped a man who was on his way from Nottingham to London—a roughly 240-mile round trip—to buy some bread. Why? Because he said it was £1 cheaper in the capital.

That would be ridiculous on any number of levels even if we weren't in the middle of an honest-to-god pandemic, even if he hadn't been driving 110 miles per hour, and even if his kids weren't in the car with him.

The cops said that the man was given two fixed penalty notices: one for the speeding, and one for "flouting lockdown restrictions" by violating the Health Protection Regulations 2020. He'll owe £60 for the latter, and the amount of any additional fines will be determined when he makes an appearance in court.

Last week, the North West Motorway Police reported that they stopped a man who had driven more than 100 miles from Coventry to Salford to pick up a £15 set of windows that he'd bought on eBay. "His wife could not fit in the vehicle so she was traveling in the boot for the return journey when stopped on the M6 Cheshire," the officers tweeted. Read that sentence again: HIS WIFE WAS IN THE TRUNK OF THE CAR BECAUSE OF HIS SECONDHAND WINDOWS.

The man was given a Traffic Offense Report (TOR) for one of those poor decisions.

But the most high-profile violator of Great Britain's rules against non-essential outings has to be Dr. Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s now-former chief medical officer.

Over the past two weekends, Calderwood made two separate trips from Edinburgh to her family's vacation home in Fife—despite the fact that she has literally been the face of Scotland's public information campaign, appearing in commercials urging everyone to stay at home to save lives. ("This is comparable to an individual who is leading an initiative to persuade the public of the merits of vegetarianism, who then indulges in a T-bone with a side order of bacon," one BBC political editor wrote.)

Calderwood was given a police warning after pictures of her trip were published by a Scottish tabloid. "The legal instructions on not leaving your home without a reasonable excuse apply to everyone," Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said in a statement he posted on Twitter. "Individuals must not make personal exemptions bespoke to their own circumstances."

She initially issued an apology, but quickly followed that up with a formal resignation on Sunday night. "[First Minister Nicola Sturgeon] and I have had a further conversation this evening and we have agreed that the justifiable focus on my behavior risks becoming a distraction from the hugely important job that government and the medical profession has to do in getting the country through this coronavirus pandemic," she said. "Having worked so hard on the government's response, that is the last thing I want."

There will be a time for holiday homes (lol, right) and eBay pickups and bread runs again. But it's not right now—unless you want to be dragged by the cops on Twitter.