How many households can meet indoors in England? New rules as lockdown restrictions are tightened

The Prime Minister has warned tougher restrictions will remain in place for six months in an effort to curb coronavirus infections

Lockdown measures in England are to become stricter in England this week, in response to the rapidly rising coronavirus infection rates.

In a national address on Tuesday 22 September, the Prime Minister warned the UK has reached a “perilous turning point”, prompting tougher restrictions to be introduced in an effort to curb the number of cases.

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But what do the rules say about meeting with other households? Here’s what you need to know.

Gatherings of more than six people are now illegal in any setting in EnglandGatherings of more than six people are now illegal in any setting in England
Gatherings of more than six people are now illegal in any setting in England

Can I mix with other households?

Current rules in England state that gatherings of more than six people are now illegal in any setting, either indoors, outdoors, at home, or in a pub or restaurant.

Single households, or support bubbles that are larger than six, are still allowed to gather together.

Government guidance states that when seeing friends and family you do not live with, you should:

- meet in groups of six or less

- follow social distancing rules when you meet up

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- limit how many different people you see socially over a short period of time

- meet people outdoors where practical. Meeting people outdoors is safer than meeting people indoors because fresh air provides better ventilation

In England, children and babies are included in the group of six. However, in Wales the rules differ slightly, with children under the age of 11 exempt from the rules.

Similar rules also apply in Scotland, with children aged under 12 - who are part of the two households meeting - not counting towards the limit of six people.

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Covid-secure venues, including places of worship, gyms, restaurants and hospitality settings, are still permitted to hold more than six people in total, while education and work settings are not affected by the ‘rule of six’.

From Monday 28 September, new rules state that a maximum of 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies. However, the limit will remain at 30 for funerals.

The rule of six is also being extended to all adult indoor team sports, while large sporting events, business conferences and exhibitions will not reopen as originally planned from 1 October.

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Are there any exceptions to the rule of six?

There are a number of circumstances in which the rule of six does not apply and group gatherings can exceed this limit. These include:

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- For work, or the provision of voluntary or charitable services

- Registered childcare, education or training

- Supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups

- Providing support to a vulnerable person

- Providing emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm

- For arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents

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- Fulfilling a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service

- Elite sporting competition and training

- Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions - up to 15 people

- Funerals - up to 30 people. This does not include wakes, other than for religious ceremonial purposes

- Exercise classes, organised outdoor sport or licensed outdoor physical activity, and supervised sporting activity (indoors or outdoors) for under-18s

- Indoor organised team sports for disabled people

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- Support groups of up to 15 participants - formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support.

- Protests - if organised in compliance with Covid-19 secure guidance. All individuals must be socially distanced

What are the fines for breaking the rules?

Boris Johnson has doubled the fines for failing to wear a mask, or for breaking the recently introduced ‘rule of six’.

The penalty will increase from £100 to £200 for the first offence, with businesses now facing a hefty £10,000 fine for breaching self-isolation rules.

Fines of up to £10,000 for people who fail to self-isolate have already been announced.