Matt Hancock has warned that a lockdown rule allowing people to meet with one other person for exercise could be changed.
At Monday’s government press briefing, the health secretary said minister would look at changing the rule if people continued to break it.
The current restrictions allow people to meet up with just one person from another household for exercise in a public outdoor place.
However, Mr Hancock said if people continue to meet in larger groups for socialising, the rule could be scrapped.
During the first lockdown in March, exercising was only permitted with members of your own household.
Mr Hancock told the press conference: “You can go and exercise in the park with one other person, but only one other person.
“And we have been seeing large groups and that is not acceptable. And you should be two metres apart from the other person.
“If there are too many people breaking this rule then we are going to have to look at it.
“But, I don’t want to do that because, for many people being able to go for a walk with a friend, that often is their only social contact.
“It is okay to go for a walk with one other person around a park, but you should stay two metres apart from that other person.
“And, likewise, it is okay, if you went for a long walk and ended up seven miles away from home, that is OK.
“But, you should stay local, you should not go from one side of a country to another, potentially taking the virus with you.”
Mr Hancock pleaded with the public to follow coronavirus rules explaining that the new variant of coronavirus is “highly contagious and it is putting the NHS under very significant pressure”.
He echoed comments made earlier by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, saying “we’re at the worst point in this pandemic”.
And he added: “The NHS, more than ever before, needs everybody to be doing something right now – and that something is to follow the rules.
“I know there has been speculation about more restrictions, and we don’t rule out taking further action if it is needed, but it is your actions now that can make a difference.
“Stay at home, and please reduce all social contact that is not absolutely strictly necessary. That’s what is needed: act like you have the virus.”