The rule of six bans meetings of more than six people in England. The law will be enforced by the police and anyone breaking it risks being “dispersed, fined and possibly arrested”, said Boris Johnson.
Failure to stick to the new rules originally meant a £100 fine, but on 22 September, Johnson said this has now doubled to £200.
Johnson also tightened restrictions on the “rule of six”, no longer allowing weddings of 30 people. The rule of six now also applies to indoor sports, amateur performing arts and choirs.
As with every Covid rule to date, there are terms and conditions, exemptions and practicalities to navigate. People have a lot of questions, so we’ve attempted to answer them.
Wait, doesn’t this mean we can now see more people indoors than before the ‘rule of six’?
Bizarrely, yes, in some circumstances. The previous rules banned more than two households from meeting indoors at once, meaning three individual friends from different households couldn’t go for dinner.
The new rule of six has replaced that rule, so now, you can technically go for dinner with five mates from different households, while abiding by social distancing rules. Some have raised concerns that the new six-person “restriction” will actually mean more people mixing.
The new rule might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s an attempt to simplify the system. Let’s face it, clarification was needed. If you’ve been anywhere near a pub or restaurant in the past two months, you’ll have seen people definitely not abiding by the two household rule, anyway.
What happens if you’re in a family bigger than six?
If you live with more than six people in one household, you’re exempt from the rule – so don’t worry, you don’t need to kick one of your children out of the family home anytime soon. You’re also exempt if your support bubble exceeds six people, e.g. if you’re a family of six, but a single relative or friend has joined your “bubble” for support, they can still see you.
If you are part of a big family, socialising will another household will be more difficult, though.
“Two whole households will no longer be able to meet if they would exceed the limit of six people,” Johnson explained in the briefing. “I am sorry about that. 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.”
Children are included in the rule of six in England. This is different to Wales and Scotland, where the rule of six does not include children under 11 and 12 respectively.
But, we can still go to weddings?
On 22 September, Boris Johnson reduced the number of people who can attend weddings. “I’m afraid that from Monday [28 September] a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, though up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now,” he said.
“Covid-19 secure venues, such as places of worship, restaurants and hospitality venues, can still host larger numbers in total but groups of up to six must not mix or form larger groups,” the government website states.
And kids can see each other inside school, but not outside?
Bingo. Your son or daughter might be mixing with a class of children during the day, but that doesn’t mean you can have a huge birthday party. Why? It all comes down to setting: schools have completed risk assessments, your home is a wild card.
Do we need to worry about childcare?
No, don’t panic. Several people online have been asking what this means for childcare and carers, particularly for children with special educational needs.
The government exemptions include “work”, “registered childcare”, and “providing support to a vulnerable person,” so you’re covered.
Will protests be banned?
There have also been widespread concerns that the rule of six will stop people’s right to protest – and there’s been some ingenious solutions floated.
But don’t panic – on the government’s website, protests are listed within the exceptions where groups can be larger than six people, stating: “Protests and political activities organised in compliance with Covid-19 secure guidance and subject to strict risk assessments.”
What’s the deal with sports?
Organised outdoor sports of more than six people are allowed, as long as they abide by the gyms and leisure centre guidance. You can’t grab six mates for a casual kick-about, though. However, restrictions on indoor sport have tightened, and they’re now limited to only six people. Exercise classes can still go ahead with more than six people, providing social distancing is in place.
Elite sporting competitions or training programmes are also exempt, but watching sport is unlikely to return to normal anytime soon.
The organisers of any sporting event likely to attract spectators have to publish a risk assessment regarding social distancing first. Government insiders told HuffPost fans should expect a “much more limited return” of spectators to Premier League football matches and other live stadium sport, following the new law.
Will support groups be impacted?
Some types of support group are exempt from the rule of six and can take place in groups of up to 15 in a public place.
The government website defines support groups as “a group organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meeting.”
Groups exempt include, but are not limited to:
to victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
to those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
to new and expectant parents
to those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness, disability or terminal condition or who are vulnerable
to those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
to those who have suffered bereavement.