Coronavirus: New rules on social gatherings in England – here’s what you can and can’t do
New rules banning social gatherings of more than six people will come into force in England on Monday as the government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
The change in the law is being introduced after the number of daily positive COVID-19 cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000.
But what are the new rules, what happens if you break them and how do they differ around the UK?
Sky News answers the key questions.
What are the rules on social gatherings?
- From Monday 14 September, any gathering of more than six people in England will be illegal, unless it meets one of a limited list of exemptions
- This applies to gatherings both indoors and outdoors
- It also applies to all ages
- Social premises and venues, including pubs and restaurants, will be legally required to request test and trace information from customers and keep the details for 21 days
- Households or support bubbles of more than six people are exempt from the new rules
- Gatherings of more than six people for work or education will also continue to be allowed
- Weddings and funerals are still allowed to have up to 30 people attending
- Organised team sports carried out in a “COVID-secure way” can also have more than six people
- Places of worship are also unaffected by the rule change, with more than 30 people still allowed to gather
- Theatres and sports venues could test all audience members and let in those with a negative result, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said
What happens if you break the rules?
Anyone who breaks the rules on social gatherings will be fined £100, with the penalty doubling on each further repeat offence up to £3,200.
The PM said “COVID-secure marshals” will be introduced in town and city centres to enforce social distancing rules.
Border Force will also step up the enforcement of quarantine rules for travellers into the country, Mr Johnson added.
The Police Federation has urged the government to “play its part”, saying: “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.”
Why are the new rules being introduced?
According to cabinet ministers, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance have jointly agreed that urgent action is necessary after seeing the number of daily positive cases rise to almost 3,000 recently.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, has warned of a “bumpy ride over the next few months” unless the virus is taken “incredibly seriously”.
Downing Street sources say putting the new, lower limit on social gatherings in law will make it easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings.
The new rules follow a Zoom roundtable the prime minister had with police forces last week, where officers expressed their desire for rules on social contact to be simplified.
More than 57,400 deaths involving COVID-19 have now been registered in the UK, according to figures from official data sources.
Are the rules different in others parts of the UK?
Yes, different rules apply to social gatherings elsewhere in the UK.
In Scotland, up to eight people from three households are allowed to meet indoors, while groups of 15 people – from up to five households – are permitted to meet outdoors.
In Wales, up to 30 people can meet outdoors but people have been told not to gather indoors with anyone who is not a member of their household (or extended household) “unless they have a good reason”.
Up to four households, with an unlimited number of people, are able to join together to form an “extended household” in Wales.
The Welsh government says the idea is to allow families or close friends who have been separated in recent months to “reconnect with each other and enjoy each other’s close company once again”.
In Northern Ireland, six people from two different households can meet indoors and groups of up to 15 people outdoors.
Which areas are still facing local lockdowns?
A number of local lockdowns have been introduced around the UK in response to spikes in coronavirus cases.
There have been no local lockdown measures in Northern Ireland so far.
On Tuesday 8 September, the government ordered that restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs will be immediately restricted to takeaway only and all hospitality venues will be required to close between 10pm and 5am.
A ban on mixing outside households in public outdoor settings will also be enforceable by law.
People are not allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse after the restrictions came into force at 6pm on Tuesday.
Everyone over the age of 11 is required to wear face coverings in shops and people should not meet indoors with anyone outside their household.
Parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire, Preston and West Yorkshire
People cannot meet anyone from outside their own household or support bubble in a home or garden.
People living in Glasgow City, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire are banned from meeting people from another household inside their home.
People have been told not to meet anyone from another household in a home or garden, unless they are in your support bubble.
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