New restrictions on socialising from today: What you need to know
Written by on 14 September 2020
New rules banning social gatherings of more than six people have been introduced across England, Scotland and Wales in a bid to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
People face fines of up to GBP3,200 if they do not abide by the “rule of six”.
But what are the new restrictions, what happens if you break them and how do they differ across the nations?
Sky News answers the key questions.
What are the rules on social gatherings?
o From Monday 14 September, gatherings of more than six people are illegal, unless it meets one of a limited list of exemptions
o This applies to gatherings both indoors and outdoors in England and Scotland, and indoors in Wales
o It applies to all ages in England and everyone except children under the age of 11 in Wales and under 12 in Scotland
o In Northern Ireland, six people from two different households can meet indoors and groups of up to 15 people outdoors – but localised restrictions have been introduced in Belfast and Ballymena
o Social premises and venues, including pubs and restaurants, are now legally required to request test and trace information from customers and keep the details for 21 days
o Households or support bubbles of more than six people can still gather
o Groups of more than six people are allowed for work or education
o Places of worship, gyms, restaurants and hospitality settings can still hold more than six people in total
o Weddings and funerals are also exempt, with up to 30 people allowed to attend them in England and Wales and 20 people in Scotland
o Organised team sports carried out in a “COVID-secure way” can have more than six people
What happens if you break the rules?
Anyone who breaks the rules on social gatherings will be fined GBP100, with the penalty doubling on each further repeat offence up to GBP3,200.
“COVID-secure marshals” will enforce social distancing rules in town and city centres, the prime minister has said.
Border Force are also stepping up the enforcement of quarantine rules for travellers into the country, Boris 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 significantly.
They UK figure hit a near four-month high of 3,539 on 11 September.
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, where officers expressed their desire for rules on social contact to be simplified.
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.
Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull
People will not be able to mix with any households, indoors or in private gardens, except for those in a support bubble, from Tuesday 15 September.
On 8 September, the government ordered that restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs would 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.
Belfast and Ballymena, Northern Ireland
It was announced on 10 September that different households are being banned from meeting in each other’s houses – apart from those who have formed a “bubble” with another household and those with caring or childcare responsibilities.
In addition, no more than six people – from no more than two households – can gather in private gardens, while residents are urged to avoid unnecessary travel outside the local areas.
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.
Lanarkshire will be subject to the same restrictions from 12 September.
People have been told not to meet anyone from another household in a home or garden, unless they are in their support bubble.