Social gatherings of more than six people banned in England
Social gatherings of more than six people are to be banned in England in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to announce the new measures at a press conference tomorrow. They will take effect from Monday.
The ban will apply to both indoor and outdoor gatherings, including pubs, private homes and restaurants.
People will still be allowed to gather in groups larger than six for work or education.
Failure to comply could see offenders fined £100, doubling for each repeat offence up to £3,200.
Mr Johnson said: "We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifyingthe rules on social contact - making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce."
He added it was 'absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules.'
The change applies to England only, to people of all ages, and to gatherings indoors and outdoors, in private homes, public outdoor spaces, and venues such as pubs and restaurants.
No 10 said any group of seven or more people gathering anywhere "risks being dispersed by police or fined for non-compliance".
It comes as Mr Hancock also said that the pause in a Covid-19 vaccine trial was “not necessarily a setback”.
Trials of the vaccine under development by AstraZeneca and Oxford University have been put on hold owing to a reported side effect in a patient in the UK.
Mr Hancock said there was another pause in the trial earlier in the summer which was “resolved without a problem”.
“What it does underline is that when it comes to the vaccine, we will do everything necessary to ensure a vaccine is safe and effective,” he said.
On the new rules on social distancing, he told Sky News: “Abiding by these rules is absolutely vital to protect life.
“We have seen the increase in the number of cases sadly in the last few days.
“We have seen across Europe there is a second wave that many countries have experienced – some of those countries have then got that second wave under control.
“We are determined to take the action that keeps people safe.
“It is incredibly important that everybody follows these new rules and we will be bringing in strict enforcement so that they can be followed.”
When asked if the new rules would mean that Christmas is cancelled, Mr Hancock told LBC radio: “I hope not but we clearly need to act. This is a really simple rule which says you cannot socialise with more than six people.”
He added: “We want to set out very clearly for everybody – so that everybody has the chance to see these rules, read them and then to follow them, and that’s why it will come into force on Monday.
“You have seen that where there is a big spike like Bolton, that’s where we will take action immediately.
“These rules are so important, every single person in the country needs to know what they are so that we can together get a grip of the virus.”
Gatherings of more than six people will be allowed where the household or support bubble is larger than six, or where the gathering is for work or education purposes.
Mr Hancock said the reason work and education were exempt was because “we need to get through this coronavirus with the minimal impact”.
He added: “But it does mean that when it comes to socialising, we are unfortunately having to put in place these rules because our contact tracing system – which is now excellent – shows that the majority of the transmission of this disease is in social circumstances.”
Exemptions will also apply for weddings, funerals and Covid-secure organised team sports, with a full list to be published by the Government before Monday.