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England to ban social gatherings of more than six people following spike in Covid-19 cases

Boris Johnson will announce the measures today following a sharp rise in cases.

Commuters in London wear face masks.
Commuters in London wear face masks.
Image: Kieran Cleeves/EMPICS Entertainment

SOCIAL GATHERINGS OF more than six people will be illegal in England from next Monday as the UK government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use a press conference today to announce the change in the law after the number of daily positive Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000.

The legal limit on social gatherings will be reduced from 30 people to six. It will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.

Gatherings of more than six people will be allowed where the household or support bubble is larger than six, or where the gathering is for work or education purposes.

Exemptions will also apply for weddings, funerals and organised team sports, with a full list to be published soon.

Johnson is expected to tell the press conference: “We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact – making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.

“It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others, and getting a test if you have symptoms.”

Downing Street said chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and the government had jointly agreed that urgent action was needed after the rise in coronavirus cases.

Some 2,420 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were recorded in Britain as of 9am on Tuesday, following the 2,988 reported in the UK on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May.

The government hopes that the change to the law will make it easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings. Failure to comply could result in a £100 fine, which will double on each repeat offence up to £3,200.

Number 10 said Johnson held a virtual roundtable with police forces last week where officers expressed their desire for rules on social contact to be simplified.

But the Police Federation of England and Wales urged the government to “play its part” through a public information campaign after “so many changes in legislation”.

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The association’s national chairman John Apter said: “For policing, these constant changes to legislation are becoming the norm. The pressures on policing have increased significantly over recent months and this latest change will add to this pressure.

“My colleagues will support the public through what is going to be a very difficult time. At all times they will also remind people that a breach of these regulations means breaking the law.

“However, the government needs to play its part. With so many changes in legislation, an effective public information campaign must be a priority – as there’s been so much confusion for the public and many people don’t know exactly what the law says.”

Different rules apply to social gatherings elsewhere in the UK.

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