The rules were introduced after a resurgence in coronavirus cases, driven largely by younger populations.
The rules differ slightly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What are the new rules on gatherings?
Previously, the legal limit on gatherings in England was no more than 30 - though government guidance had recommended lower limits.
The legal limit has now been amended to make gatherings of more than six people from outside your household or support bubble illegal, with the police handed powers to issue fines to those caught breaking the law.
As before, the government recommends socially distancing from anyone from outside your household or support bubble, as well as practicing excellent hygiene to limit the spread of coronavirus.
In addition to this, the government recommends trying to meet people outside where it’s possible, as fresh air provides better ventilation.
What are the exceptions to the rule?
Certain events and situations make groups exempt from the rule of six. These are:
-If you are working or providing voluntary or charitable services
-If you are providing registered childcare, education or training
-If you are providing supervised activities for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups
-If you are part of childcare arrangements in which children do not live in the same household as both their parents
-If you are providing emergency assistance, or avoiding illness, injury or harm
-If you providing support to a vulnerable person
-Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies as well as receptions are permitted to gather in groups of up to 30 in a public place
-Up to 30 people are also allowed to gather for funerals, but this does not include wakes
-Religious and belief-based life cycle ceremonies are allowed to gather in groups of up to 30
-If you are taking part in exercise or sports classes or gatherings. This doesn’t include informal sports activities with friends or family, but, controversially, includes hunting
-Support groups to provide therapy, mutual aid or any other kind of support may gather in groups of more than six. This might include recovering addicts, new parents, victims of crime or those suffering bereavement
-Protests - if organised in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance
Children count as one of a group of six, so they must be included when planning to meet with others.
A person is not counted as part of the gatherings limit if they are covered by an exception.
This means, for instance, that a plumber could enter a household of six people for the purposes of work without breaking the law.
How will the rules be enforced?
The police have been handed powers to issue fines to anyone caught breaking the rules.
For a first offence, a fine of £100 could be issued, doubling for further breaches of the rules up to a maximum of £3,200.
Anyone caught organising a gathering of over 30 people such as a rave or a house party could face a fine of £10,000.
Hospitality businesses will also be expected to ensure there are no unlawful gatherings taking place in their premises.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has encouraged people to call the non-emergency police number if they believe somebody is breaking the new law.