With rising coronavirus cases across Greater Manchester and fears of a second wave of the pandemic across the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced drastic new rules to intensify social distancing.
Social gatherings of more than six people – either indoors or outdoors – will be illegal from Monday 14th September. People flouting the rules will be fined £100, which will double for any further offences up to a maximum of £3,200.
Rules for restaurants and bars are also being intensified – you now must provide your contact details when dining out – thus far it has been up to individual businesses to implement it but not mandatory.
Premises and venues where people meet socially will now be legally required to record and retain the details of people who attend for 21 days, providing them to the health authorities if and when required. Fines will be levied against hospitality venues that fail to keep their venues Covid-secure.
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, PM Mr Johnson said: “We are simplifying the rules to make it easier for everyone to understand. You should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with, even if they are close friends or family.
“From Monday we are introducing the rule of six. You must not meet socially in groups of more than six, and if you do you will be breaking the law. This will apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub.
“The ban will be set out in law and will be enforced by the police. Anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested.”
Statistics show big rises in positive coronavirus tests among young people – with spikes in the age groups of 17-30.
The tightening of social distancing measures across England announced by the PM comes after heightened lockdown measures were introduced in Bolton – which now has the highest coronavirus rates in the country.
From Tuesday, bars and restaurants in Bolton were told they have to revert to takeaway only, and there is a full ban on hospitality with a curfew now in place from 10pm to 5am.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the big rises in Bolton have been found to be “partly due to large groups of people in their 20s and 30s socialising together”.
Mr Johnson hasn’t ruled out that the new measures may continue for some months – raising the spectre of a drastically different Christmas for families and friends in 2020.
But he said that taking decisive action now is with the aim of preventing even tighter lockdown measures in the weeks ahead.
What are the new social distancing rules?
Social gatherings of more than six people both indoors and outdoors are being banned by law from Monday 14th September. Police will have the power to break up groups of more than six people and issue fines.
This changes the current rules in England, which allows up to 30 people from two households to meet, or six people from multiple households to meet outdoors. The current guidance says you should only socialise indoors with members of up to two households.
But the new rules stress that groups must only be of six or under in any setting – so if two households would go over that number it is no longer allowed.
What happens if you break the rules?
You can be fined £100 if you are found breaking the rules and being in an illegal gathering. The fine is £100 for a first offence which will double up on each further offence up to a maximum penalty of £3,200.
What are the exemptions?
Some gatherings of more than six people will be exempt from the new rules. These include:-
- If your household or support bubble numbers more than six
- Special events like weddings, christenings and funerals where you will be allowed up to 30 people
- Team sports will be allowed to proceed
- Where gatherings are for work and education purposes
- Covid secure venues like places of worship, gyms, restaurants and hospitality venue will still be allowed to operate (and hold more than six people in total) but there must be no individual groups of more than six, and groups must not be allowed to meet up or socialise together in these settings to form larger groups
What is changing at bars and restaurants?
You will still be able to enjoy going out to bars and restaurants (except in Bolton where stricter local lockdown measures are in force and hospitality venues are takeaway only). But the new rules will enforce the “rule of six” – with no group allowed above this number.
In the areas of Greater Manchester under stricter local lockdowns, that group must only contain members of the same household.
It will also now be mandatory for restaurants and bars to take and keep your contact details when you visit. Premises and venues where people meet socially will be legally required to record and retain the details of people who attend for 21 days – providing them to the health authorities if and when required. Fines will be levied against hospitality venues that fail to keep their venues Covid-secure.
What’s the new pilot project happening in Salford?
PM Boris Johnson announced that a new, instant Covid-19 test that gives a result in just 20 minutes is to be piloted with a new project in Salford that aims to see if and how the virus spreads among larger gatherings.
From October, he announced they are going to trial the new virus test with audiences in outdoor and indoor venues in Salford and they then hope to go nationwide with the project.
Mr Johnson said they needed to work through a number of logistical challenges to do this, but they were hopeful of the pilot project starting in Salford from next month.
He outlined his hopes that the project will allow venues like theatres to become operational again before Christmas.
What are the different local lockdown rules?
The new measures work alongside a raft of different local lockdown measures now in place across most of Greater Manchester – with eight of the ten boroughs under heightened restrictions.
For the full low down on those measures, see our article here.
Mr Johnson also reminded the public of the importance of washing hands, wearing face masks and keeping 2m away from other people wherever possible and to get a test if you develop Covid-19 symptoms.
The main three symptoms are a new continuous cough, a fever, and a loss of sense of smell and taste.