Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced tough new rules to crush a second wave of coronavirus after unveiling figures showing a sudden rise in new cases of Covid-19.
The rules will be enforced by the police and Border Force – as well as an army of Covid Wardens employed by local authorities.
From Monday people across England will no longer be able to meet in groups larger than six – unless they all live in the same household.
That goes for meeting in houses and gardens, parks and beaches as well as in public places such as pubs and restaurants.
Pubs and restaurants, as well as places of worship, schools and workplaces can hold more than six people – but any groups within that must be no larger than six and must not combine to form larger groups.
Events such as weddings and funerals in Covid secure venues are excluded from this rule.
At the same time pubs, cafes and restaurants which have been voluntarily collecting the contact details of customers will now HAVE to collect names, addresses, emails and phone numbers by law – and hold them for 21 days.
The rules will be enforced by police – who can issue fines disperse groups and arrest those who fail to comply.
Local authorities will be given new powers, and funding, to employ Covid Warden to ensure the rules are being complied with.
Border Force will have new authority to ensure people are quarantined when they come into the UK.
The Prime Minister said: “In England from Monday we are introducing the rule of six.
“You must not meet socially in groups of more than six.
“And, if you do, you will be breaking the law.”
Boris Johnson said he is “sorry” that two whole households will no longer be able to meet if their total exceeds six people.
He said: “This rule of six will of course throw up difficult cases, for example two whole households will no longer be able to meet if they would together exceed the limit of six people and I’m sorry about that, and I wish that we did not have to take this step.
“But as your Prime Minister, I must do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives. And of course we will keep the rule of six under constant review and only keep it in place as long as is necessary.”
Mr Johnson said that he has tasked the Cabinet with increasing enforcement of the rules, adding: “In future, premises where people meet socially will be legally required to request the contact details of a member of every party, record and retain these details for 21 days and provide them to NHS Test and Trace, without delay, when required.”
On social distancing, Mr Johnson said: “I know that over time the rules have become quite complicated and confusing.
“We are responding, and we are simplifying and strengthening the rules, making them easier for everyone to understand.”
The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, has said the numbers of coronavirus case have been increasing “much more rapidly” over the past few days.
He told a Downing Street news conference that while the numbers among older people and children remained “flat”, in other age groups there were “rapid upticks”.
He said among 17 to 18 year-olds and 19 to 21 year-olds the numbers had gone up “really quite steeply” since mid August.
He said that data suggested that without action Britain would be on a path “extremely similar” to France where the numbers had continued to rise.
However in Belgium the authorities took “decisive action” which led to the rates stabilising and then falling.
“This is clear indication that if you act rapidly and decisively there is a good chance of bringing rates back down under control,” he said.
Boris Johnson added that there will be some exemptions to the “rule of six”.
Mr Johnson said: “There will be some limited exemptions. For example, if a single household or support bubble is larger than six, then obviously they can still gather.
“Covid-secure venues like places of worships, gyms, restaurants, hospitality venues can still hold more than six in total. Within those venues, however, there must not be individual groups larger than six and groups must not mix socially or form larger groups.
“Education and work settings are unaffected. Covid-secure weddings and funerals can go ahead up to a limit of 30 people and organised sport will still be able to proceed.”
Mr Johnson said the Government is aiming to deploy rapid testing of hundreds of thousands of people a day.
He said people could be tested in 20 minutes – allowing those who are negative to go about tan almost pre-Covid life.
This will allow people to go to work – and to attend events at indoor and outdoor venues.
The scheme will be tested in Salford before rolling out nationwide.
Mr Johnson said: ““Workplaces could be opened up to all those who test negative that morning and allow them to behave in a way that was normal before Covid.
“Those isolating because they are a contact, or quarantining after travelling abroad could, after a period, be tested and released.
“Now that is an ambitious agenda, but we are going to pilot this approach in Salford from next month, with audiences in indoor and outdoor venues.
“And then we hope to go nationwide.”
Mr Johnson also hinted we could see nationwide curfews – with hospitality venues forced to close in the evenings.
Prof Whitty used Belgium as an example of a country which has successfully suppressed a second wave.
Belgium as deployed curfews.
Mr Johson said curfews will be used ‘for now’ in select locations. They have already been deployed in Bolton.
Boris Johnson said the new rules are being put in place “to prevent another wholesale national lockdown”.
Answering a question from the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg on why the public should listen to the Prime Minister’s messaging which he has admitted has been confusing, Mr Johnson said: “It still remains true, by the way, that we want people to be able, be confident to go back to work in a Covid-secure way.
“And of course we want pupils to be back in school, that is a priority. As I said earlier on, we want university students to feel secure to go back to Covid-secure universities.”
He added: “The reason that we’re doing this, as I said earlier on, is to prevent another wholesale national lockdown of the kind that we had in March, that is the objective.”