UK government forced to pull ad which claimed people who are out exercising are 'highly likely to have COVID'
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UK government forced to pull ad which claimed people who are out exercising are 'highly likely to have COVID'

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The UK government has been forced to remove a controversial radio advert which claimed people who go out running or walking are "highly likely to have COVID-19".

The misleading and unsubstantiated claim sparked a number of complaints and led to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) intervening.

Following contact from the ASA, The Cabinet Office pulled the advert, which included the disputed claim.

You can listen to it by clicking here.

The advert drew criticism from both healthcare and wellness experts.

Professor Gabriel Scally, a member of the independent SAGE group, called it "appaling", while Ray Algar, the fitness industry strategist and analyst, said: "Although this was a well-intentioned attempt to remind everyone of exercise guidelines during the lockdown, it is an important lesson for anyone crafting public health messaging that a claim must always be evidence-based and defendable.

"There is, in fact, a relevant and important public health message in this radio ad which is to 'exercise, don't socialise', but that is now lost in the controversy."

Liz Terry, editor of HCM said: "Words really matter and if the government had simply said 'might have' rather than 'highly likely to have' the advert would probably not have been banned.

"The government needs to issue effective, fair and balanced messaging and not unbelievable, sensationalist propaganda.

"The challenge is that the people who are following the rules don't need these reminders and the people who breaking them won't be listening – and if they do happen to hear, they won't take any notice.

"I'd like to see a refresh of our core strategy, with a new push towards health and the reopening of regulated environments, such as gyms and spas, so people can spend more time in safe, regulated, COVID-secure places looking after their health so they can fight COVID-19, instead of more time in unregulated environments, getting fat and sedentary and spreading the virus around, while all the while, we are destroying the economy."

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The UK government has been forced to remove a controversial radio advert which claimed people who go out running or walking are "highly likely to have COVID-19".
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