Boris Johnson has announced a number of tough new restrictions and urged people to limit their social contact “as much as possible” to prevent a rise in coronavirus cases.
The Prime Minister said he was “sorry” that two households which exceed six people would no longer be able to meet in England from Monday, and said he wished that he did not have to take such steps.
But addressing the first Downing Street press conference since July, Mr Johnson said that “if we are to beat the virus then everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible”.
“It is safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with, even if they are close friends or family.”
He said that under the new “rule of six” people “must not meet socially in groups of more than six – and if you do, you will be breaking the law”.
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Here are some of the things we learned from today’s Downing Street press conference:
From Monday, gatherings of more than six people will be illegal across England, indoors and out.
There will be some limited exceptions – weddings are allowed to go ahead with up to 30 people, as will funerals.
And team sports are still allowed, the Prime Minister clarified.
But people found breaking the new rule face £100 fines – and this will double each time they’re caught, up to a limit of £3,200.
Bad news for large families.
Mr Johnson admitted the six-person rule could be limiting, but said it needs to be done.
Mr Johnson admitted the hard limit of six people will hit large families who can no longer have all the grandparents round for Sunday lunch.
The PM said it “breaks my heart”.
He said during this afternoon’s briefing: “This rule of six will of course throw up difficult cases, for example two whole households will no longer be able to meet if they would together exceed the limit of six people and I’m sorry about that, and I wish that we did not have to take this step.
“But as your Prime Minister, I must do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives.
“And of course we will keep the rule of six under constant review and only keep it in place as long as is necessary.”
England’s pubs and restaurants will be forced to take punters’ contact details or face £1,000 fines in a coronavirus crackdown.
Hospitality venues, which also include cafes, have been told since July to keep customers’ details for 21 days.
The information is designed to help contact tracers track down people who might have caught Covid-19 at the venue.
But until now the policy was only voluntary in England – despite being made a legal requirement in Scotland.
This afternoon Boris Johnson said fines would now be levied against venues which do not comply.
New social distancing marshals are set to be appointed to make sure people stick to the rules.
Mr Johnson tonight announced the measure, which has been put in place after a surge in new cases.
Mr Johnson said in a televised Downing Street briefing: “The government will support Local Authorities and police forces to respond to breaches of Covid-19 Secure guidelines.
“We will launch a register of newly qualified and recently retired Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) so that Local Authorities can recruit more quickly and fill any gaps.
The Prime Minister said that the UK Border Force will step up the enforcement of quarantine rules for travellers into the country.
Passengers travelling to the UK will need to fill out a simplified form with their contact details before they depart, while the Border Force will step up enforcement efforts to ensure compliance with quarantine rules.
Plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month will be revised, and the Government is reviewing its intention to return audiences to stadiums and conference centres from October 1.
It is understood that pilot events which have already been arranged to test the safe return of spectators will be limited to a maximum of 1,000 people with social distancing measures in place.
While organised team sport will proceed, following the recent increase in infections, plans for the anticipated return of fans to grounds from the start of October will be reviewed, as will those for attending conferences.
Mr Johnson said: “At the present time we must also I am afraid revise plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month and review our intention to return audiences to stadiums and conference centres from October 1.
“But that doesn’t mean we are going to scrap the programme entirely, we are just going to have to review it and abridge it and the Culture Secretary will say more about that shortly.”
According to Government statistics, the average weekly numbers per 100,000 has rocketed in the last week with the so-called case incidence per 100,000 going from 12.5 to 19.7.
But this rise only tells a tiny part of the story, with the level of cases among the youngest age groups being more than double that in the general population.
For those aged 17-18 years old there are 48.1 per 100,000, rising to 54.5 per 100,000 for people aged 19-21.
This is before the vast majority of England’s universities return to in-person teaching in the coming weeks.
Speaking at the press conference, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said: “If you act rapidly and decisively when these changes are happening there is a reasonable chance or a good chance of bringing the rates back under control.”
This trend is also repeated in the number of people in these age groups testing postive for the virus, where the average in England has gone up to 6% up from 2.5% a couple of weeks ago.
The government has not specified how long the “rule of six” will be in place for.
But experts are planning for the new ban on gatherings larger than six people to be in place for at least three months, the Mirror understands.
And if there is no change in circumstances, such as a vaccine breakthrough, they fear restrictions could be in place for six months.
The move spells a grim winter ahead – and puts Christmas under threat for millions.
In a No10 press conference, the Prime Minister finally admitted he was forced to “simplify” the rules after they “have become quite complicated and confusing”.
On social distancing, Mr Johnson said: “I know that over time the rules have become quite complicated and confusing.
“We are responding, and we are simplifying and strengthening the rules, making them easier for everyone to understand.”