Today (September 14) sees the introduction of the Government’s new coronavirus rules, brought in as a response to an increase in cases across England in recent weeks.
The main headline is the introduction of the ‘rule of six’ meaning you cannot meet up in a group bigger than six people, either indoors or outdoors. Children of all ages are included in this total.
If more than six friends or family members meet up, irrespective of the location, the gathering could be dispersed by Devon and Cornwall Police with the possibility of a £100 fine, which doubles for each subsequent offence up to £3,200.
There are a number of exceptions to the rules, including workplaces or activity related to work, schools, universities, places of worship and if your household or support bubble (where a household of a single adult is supported by a household of any size) is greater than six.
Here’s what the new rules are and what they mean for you.
What are the new rules?
From today, it is illegal to gather socially in a group of more than six people. The limit applies to all people regardless of age, including babies and covers indoor and outdoor locations such as private homes and gardens, outdoor spaces such as parks as well as venues such as pubs, restaurants and cafes.
Those caught breaking the law face a £100 fine, which doubles for each repeat offence up to £3,200.
Are there any limits of households within the new rule?
There aren’t any limits on households within the new “rule of six”, although Government guidance says people from different households should still social distance from each other. So with the new rules, six individuals from six different households can still meet, provided they maintain social distancing, whereas a family of six wouldn’t be able to mix with anyone as one group.
If, however, your household or support bubble has more than six people, you’ll still be allowed in a group together.
There are a number of exceptions such as for work and education, as well as a limited number of events organised in a “COVID secure way” such as weddings, funerals, gym classes and more.
These rules only apply to England- Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have different rules.
The rules if you’re living in halls of residence or shared university housing.
If you’re a student, your household is those in your shared house or accommodation. For example, if you live in a hall of residence, your ‘household’ will be according to which floor or flat you’re on, and if you share a house with other people, regardless of the size, that is counted as your household.
The rules on looking after Grandchildren
People in groups of up to 6 can meet indoors or outdoors, which enables you to spend time with your grandchildren. The Government say that they “recognise that grandparents and other relatives often provide informal childcare for young children, and this can be very important.”
They also say that people should try to maintain social distance from people they do not live with wherever possible, it may not always be practicable to do so when providing care to a young child or infant. If this is this case – and where young children may struggle to keep social distance – people should still limit close contact as much as possible, and take other precautions such as washing hands and clothes regularly.
If people have formed a support bubble with your grandchildren’s household, which is allowed if either the person or the grandparent lives in a ‘single adult household’, then there can be close contact and social distancing is not necessary.
The rules on public transport and car sharing
The limit on gatherings does not apply to public transport, although the laws requiring face coverings and keeping as much social distancing still applies.
Government advice is that people should not try and share a vehicle with those outside their household or social bubble. However, if this is required, people should try and share the transport with the same people each time, keep to small groups of up to six people at a time, open windows for ventilation, travel side by side or behind other people rather than facing them (where seating arrangements allow), face away from each other and clean the vehicle between each use using standard cleaning products as well as ensuring all passengers and the driver wear a face covering.
The rules on overnight stays in another person’s home.
Provided the total in the household doesn’t exceed the “rule of six”, people can still stay overnight in each other’s homes.
People can therefore only stay in someone’s home if the gathering does not exceed six, with the limit not applying if they are in a support bubble with the person whose home you are staying in.
Government advice still is to maintain social distancing with anyone they do not live with or is not in their support bubble along with advice saying to take care maintaining excellent hygiene such as washing hands and surfaces where possible, especially in shared facilities such as bathrooms.
The rules around funerals and weddings.
The new rules don’t apply to weddings or funerals, where provided the gathering is organised in a “COVID secure way”, such as maintaining social distancing, having a sit-down meal for a wedding reception at a COVID secure venue.
The Government say that social distancing will be limited to how many people the venue can safely accommodate within the rules, with funerals advised to limit themselves to a maximum of 30 people.
The exceptions to the rule of six.
Where everyone lives together or is in the same support bubble, or to continue existing arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents
For work, and voluntary or charitable services
For education, training, registered childcare, or providers offering before or after-school clubs for children
fulfilling legal obligations such as attending court or jury service
providing emergency assistance, or providing support to a vulnerable person
for you or someone else to avoid illness, injury or harm
participate in children’s playgroups
wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions, or for other religious life-cycle ceremonies – where up to 30 people will be able to attend
funerals – where up to 30 people will be able to attend
organised indoor and outdoor sports, physical activity and exercise classes (see the list of recreational team sports, outdoor sport and exercise allowed under the gyms and leisure centre guidance)
youth groups or activities
elite sporting competition or training
protests and political activities organised in compliance with COVID-19 secure guidance and subject to strict risk assessments