Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a new rule of six – the first major tightening of national lockdown rules in England since the lifting of restrictions began.
The rule replaces the current limit of no more than 30 people meeting together, and it replaces the rule on no more than two households gathering.
The rule is designed to simplify and strengthen the current legislation and guidance in a bid to stop a new spike in Covid-19.
The rules are set to come into force from September 14 and “apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub”.
It will be illegal to gather in a group of more than six people, with flouters facing fines of £100, which will double each time up to £3,200 for repeat offenders.
“It is safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with, even if they are close friends or family,” Mr Johnson added.
During the Downing Street briefing Health Secretary Matt Hancock referred to exemptions to the rule being “school, work, exceptional life events”.
Since the televised press conference, a fuller list of exceptions where groups can be large than six has been posted online.
- where everyone lives together or is in the same support bubble, or to continue existing arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents
- for work, and voluntary or charitable services
for education, training, or registered childcare (including wraparound care)
- fulfilling legal obligations such as attending court or jury service
- providing emergency assistance, or providing support to a vulnerable person
- for you or someone else to avoid illness, injury or harm
participate in children’s playgroups
- wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions, or for other religious life-cycle ceremonies – where up to 30 people will be able to attend
- funerals – where up to 30 people will be able to attend
- organised indoor and outdoor sports, physical activity and exercise classes (see the list of recreational team sports, outdoor sport and exercise allowed under the gyms and leisure centre guidance
- youth groups or activities
- elite sporting competition or training
- protests and political activities organised in compliance with Covid-19 secure guidance and subject to strict risk assessments
Mr Johnson said: “I’m sorry about that and I wish 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.”
In what was the first No10 national press conference since July, Mr Johnson went on to add that “if we are to beat the virus then everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible”.
He said the new rules were being introduced to “prevent another wholesale national lockdown”, and said he was “still hopeful” that “we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas”.