A ban on groups of more than six people gathering in homes, parks, pubs and restaurants in England is being imposed by Boris Johnson in the biggest coronavirus crackdown since lockdown rules were eased.
First offenders will be fined £100, which will double on each further repeat offence up to £3,200, the prime minister will announce in a bid to stem an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases in the UK.
“We need to act now to stop the virus spreading,” Mr Johnson will declare at a Downing Street news conference coinciding with a new government advertising campaign entitled “Hands. Face. Space.”
“So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact, making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce,” the PM will announce.
“It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others, and getting a test if you have symptoms.”
The crackdown comes after warnings from government medical chiefs that the public – particularly young people – are now too relaxed about coronavirus, with the result that COVID-19 rates are now above 20 per 100,000 people.
The PM’s announcement follows the Health Secretary Matt Hancock imposing a ban on socialising with people from other households in Bolton, with restaurants in the town limited to serving takeaway food and a 10pm-5am curfew on all venues.
The health secretary also issued a warning to young people this week not to spread the virus to older, more vulnerable relatives, telling people in their late teens and early 20s: “Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on.”
Mr Johnson will announce that from next Monday any gathering over six people will be illegal, unless it meets one of a limited list of exemptions: a household or support bubble of more than six or a gathering for work or education.
Further exemptions will also apply, such as for weddings, funerals, and organised team sports in a COVID secure way.
The full list of exemptions will be revealed by the government before the law changes on Monday.