Gatherings of more than six people will be banned from meeting each other in England from next Monday (September 14).
The tough new coronavirus legislation comes as the Government brings in strict new rules to control the spread of the virus after new infections rose to almost 3,000 over the last number of days, with recent weeks seeing clusters of infections in Plymouth also reported.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson will set out the new rules that state that any gathering over six people will be illegal unless it meets one of a limited number of exemptions.
The new rules come after the Government, the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor jointly agreed that urgent action is necessary after seeing the number of daily positive coronavirus cases rocket to nearly 3,000 recently.
The new changes to coronavirus legislation come after pleas were made by health officials and Plymouth City Council to young people in the city to follow the rules after new data suggested people under 30 were driving the rise in coronavirus infection rates.
Venues have also endured upheaval with the Royal Oak in Hooe just this week announcing it was closing for a deep clean after a customer tested positive for the virus. It came a month after the venue defended its decision to hold a music event.
Whilst The Mussel Inn, Flower Cafe and Staddon Heights have all re-opened after being linked to positive cases.
Why is the Government putting a ban on more than six people in a group meeting each other?
It’s also believed by the Government that by putting the new, lower limit into law, it will be easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings, with fines for failing to comply with an officer’s attempt to engage, explain and encourage resulting in a £100 fine, doubling with each repeat offence up to a maximum of £3,200.
The new rules follow a virtual roundtable the Prime Minister held with police officers last week where they expressed a desire for social contact to be simplified.
The changes which see the maximum number in a gathering reduce from 30 to 6, will also have a number of legal exemptions, permitting certain gatherings in any number, for example where your household or support bubble is larger than six or where gatherings are for work or education purposes, such as in a workplace or school.
Are there exemptions? What about weddings, funerals and sport?
Further exemptions will apply to weddings, funerals, and organised team sports organised in a ‘COVID secure way’ with the full list of exemptions set to be published on the gov.uk website before the law changes.
The Prime Minister is expected to say at a press conference on Wednesday that “we need to act now to act the virus spreading”, and that “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.”
New Government campaign
In addition to the new laws being implemented, the Government will also launch a new public information campaign across TV, radio, print, out of home, social, and digital display advertising titled “Hands, face, space” with a new video being released showing exactly how the coronavirus spreads indoors.
The new film, produced with the help of scientific experts is aimed to encourage the public to follow simple steps to reduce the risk of infection.
Dr Ruth Harrell, Plymouth’s director for public health called on the city to “be vigilant” after the confirmation of the positive tests, saying it showed “how easily life can change for us, adding: “We know that some of these young people had no symptoms, and so carried on as normal, including a night out in Plymouth’s bars and restaurants, until they became aware of the risk.
“That means more people could be infected. While young people might have fairly mild symptoms, and sometimes none that you would notice, our big concern is that we know it can be very serious for people who have existing health problems or are older.
“We are in contact with all the pubs and bars across the city to remind them of their front line role in stopping the spread of this virus. They need to help us to protect the city.
“But it also needs everyone to help too. If you think you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you need to stay at home.
“If you get any symptoms, get tested as well as isolate. There are no two ways around it.”