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Boris Johnson apologises for ‘misspeaking’ about new coronavirus rules

Written by on 29 September 2020

Boris Johnson has apologised for muddling up his own coronavirus rules on social gatherings.

The prime minister was questioned about the latest COVID-19 restrictions coming into force for northeast England from midnight on Wednesday.

At first, he said people could meet indoors and outdoors in groups of six in areas where no additional coronavirus restrictions are in place.

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The PM confused rules on gatherings

But speaking during a news conference in Exeter, he claimed: “In the North East and other areas where extra tight measures have been brought in, you should follow the guidance of local authorities.

“It’s six in a home or six in hospitality but as I understand it, not six outside.”

That is at odds with what residents have been told in Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham.

Official guidelines warn people living there “not to mix with people outside their household or bubble in indoor settings, including pubs and restaurants”.

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And hospitality workers are obliged to “take steps to ensure that people do not socialise outside of their households inside and outside your premises”.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: A couple walk along Newcastle quayside on September 17, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Almost two million people in north-east England will be banned from mixing with other households and pubs will close early as coronavirus cases rise. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the temporary restrictions will be in place from midnight due to concerning rates of infection. The measures affect seven council areas, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, County Durham and Sunderland. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
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New rules come into force for the North East on Wednesday

Mr Johnson finished his answer during an event to promote a planned skills revolution by admitting “clearly for everyone watching this, this is one of those things people will feel is confusing”.

He later tweeted: “Apologies, I misspoke today.

“In the North East, new rules mean you cannot meet people from different households in social settings indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and your home.

“You should also avoid socialising with other households outside.”

The prime minister added those measures were “vital to control the spread of coronavirus and keep everyone safe”.

Tighter social restrictions could be imposed if coronavirus infections continue to rise, a government minister has suggested.

‘Government has eye on tougher COVID measures’

Labour accused Mr Johnson of being “grossly incompetent”.

The party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “These new restrictions are due to come into force across huge parts of the country tonight.

“The government needs to get a grip.”

And shadow justice secretary David Lammy said Mr Johnson’s “incompetence” was “putting British lives at risk”.