The party's over: Gatherings of more than six people to be banned

8 September 2020, 23:03 | Updated: 9 September 2020, 13:32

Boris Johnson announced a crackdown on gatherings
Boris Johnson announced a crackdown on gatherings. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as the Government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce the change in the law on Wednesday 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, and will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors - including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.

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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 in a Covid-secure way.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC this morning: "The goal is that we get this rise under control so that we can have the sort of Christmas everyone wants to see."

He said he was "absolutely" expecting students to limit themselves to parties of six during freshers week, saying: "Obviously it is not something I would want to do, but unfortunately, yes, because otherwise we know the spread of the disease is going to keep going up and up.

"We know that that leads to more people in hospital and more people dying."

Professor Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at University College London, told LBC: “We are in a particularly risky situation at the moment because we are in what looks like the early stages of an exponential rise and we saw what happened last time and we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Mr Johnson is expected to tell a press conference on Wednesday: "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 Mr Johnson held a virtual roundtable with police forces last week where officers expressed their desire for rules on social contact to be simplified.

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".

The association's national chairman John Apter said: "With the increase in confirmed Covid cases, it's no surprise the Government has made this announcement.

"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.

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"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.

"We would urge the public to do the right thing and comply with the new rules, to help protect each other and prevent the further spread of this deadly virus."