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New COVID-19 restrictions see social gatherings of more than 6 people banned in England

Action needed to prevent second lockdown, says PM

Mark Moran
09 September 2020
PM Boris Johnson
PM Boris Johnson

 

Social gatherings of more than six people in England will not be allowed in law from Monday 14 September as part of new measures designed to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The ban on gatherings will be enforced by the police and new ‘COVID-Secure marshals’ will be introduced to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also revealed that pubs and restaurants will be legally required to request contact details of everyone visiting, hold it for 21 days and provide it to NHS Test and Trace. They face fines of £1,000 if they fail to comply.

On the international travel front, the passenger locator form, filled out by travellers returning to the UK to enforce quarantine rules, will be simplified and Border Force will increase enforcement.

Johnson has said it was necessary to act in order to avoid another lockdown as COVID-19 cases rise in England. The announcement comes as UK reported another 2,659 coronavirus cases, the fourth day running of over 2,000 reported cases.

The PM’s speech can be read by clicking here

The Prime Minister set out what he called a ‘Rule of 6’, which involves restricting gatherings to a maximum of six people, enforced with fines or arrests. The ban will apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in pubs.

“The ban will be set out in law and it will be enforced by the police – anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested,” said Johnson. “This single measure replaces both the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors. Now you only need to remember the rule of six.”

There are limited exemptions. For example, if a single household or support bubble is larger than six, they can still gather. COVID-Secure venues like places of worship, gyms, restaurants and hospitality venues can still hold more than six people 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.

Outlining the new restrictions limiting all gatherings to six people, Johnson said the government was “simplifying and strengthening the rules” after feedback from police and the public.

Current guidance says two households of any size are allowed to meet indoors or outdoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors. Until now the police have had no powers to stop gatherings unless they exceeded 30.

The number of people allowed to meet inside or outside varies across the UK's four nations. When meeting indoors: up to eight people from three different households can meet in Scotland; up to six people from two households in Northern Ireland; up to four households can form an "extended household" in Wales.

“I want to be absolutely clear, these measures are not another national lockdown. The whole point of them is to avoid a second national lockdown,” Johnson said. The restrictions would only be in place as long as necessary, he said. “I'm sorry about that. 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 save lives," he said.

The Prime Minister outlined a range of measures that will see coronavirus restrictions enforced more effectively:

  • Premises and venues 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 & Trace without delay when required.
  • The Government will support local authorities to make further and faster use of their powers to close venues that are breaking the rules and pose a risk to public health.
  • Fines will be levied against hospitality venues that fail to ensure their premises remain COVID-Secure.
  • The Government will boost the enforcement capacity of local authorities by introducing ‘COVID-Secure Marshals’ to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres, and by setting up a register of Environmental Health Officers that local authorities can draw upon for support.
  • The Passenger Locator Form needed for travelling to the UK will be simplified, and measures will be taken to ensure these are completed and checked before departure.
  • Border Force will step up enforcement efforts at the border to ensure arrivals are complying with the quarantine rules.
  • There will be restrictions on opening hours of premises, initially in some local areas.

Johnson also outlined a “moonshot” plan to control the virus with mass testing. He said the government was working to increase testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October. These swab or saliva tests could be turned around in 90 or even 20 minutes, with millions processed each day.

 
 
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