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Rule of six: what are the new social-gathering rules from today?

Here’s what you can and can’t do in England from today

Written by
Laura Richards

In light of fast-rising infection numbers in England, the government’s new ‘rule of six’ comes into force today (September 14). Announced last week, the new measures mean that social gatherings of more than six people are now against the law. 

The change in rules aims to give police more clarity when enforcing rules around social distancing. It’s hoped this will help the police break up illegal gatherings. Speaking last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact – making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.’

The rule of six might sound straightforward in theory, however, there are various exemptions. Here’s everything you need to know:

It mostly means the same rules as before. No, seriously. It’s just an attempt to clarify what is and isn’t allowed for residents in England by making it a part of the law. Previously, there was a cap on gatherings of more than 30 people by law, but the rule of six was just a guideline.  

For indoor and outdoor gatherings, you can only socialise in groups as large as six people. That’s unless your support bubble or household is actually larger than six, though.

You can only hang out in a group of six people, but each person can be from a different household.

The new rules impact both public and private spaces. So even in your home, you’re restricted to six-person gatherings.

People of all ages count towards the total of six people. In England, unlike other areas of the UK, children are included in the group of six.

Weddings and funerals are exempt. You can have groups of 30 people at weddings and funerals, but that doesn’t include wakes.

You can still go to work. Groups of more than six people are permitted for the purposes of work, education, childcare and training.

You don’t have to give up your IRL yoga class. Organised sport and exercise classes are still allowed, but if you’re planning an ‘informal’ sport or fitness activity with your pals, like a kickabout, you’ll be limited to six people.

Don’t worry: you can still go to the pub. Pubs, bars, restaurants and leisure venues are still open to groups. It’s just that the group size you visit with can only be of up to six people.

But you can’t have a birthday party in the park. Unless it’s a pretty small one.

You could be fined £100 if found breaking the new law. The fine gets doubled for each offence, up to the value of £3,200.  

Read all the latest rules around wearing face masks in England.   

This map shows active Covid cases by London postcode.    

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