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People face fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings and follows a rapid increase in the number of daily positive cases.
Regulations enabling the enforcement of the rule were published late on Sunday night, around 30 minutes before they came into effect.
More than 3,000 Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK for the third day in a row on Sunday – the first time since May that cases were above 3,000 on three consecutive days.
In Liverpool numbers have now reached the level of 80 per 100,000 people testing positive for Covid-19 with the R-rate nearing 1.3%. Yesterday Mayor Joe Anderson issued a warning and said the rise was “a real worry and concern that unless we all take this seriously we could face a City Lockdown.”
Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, Mathew Ashton also used Twitter to say: “Positive cases of #covid19 in Liverpool continue to increase rapidly. It’s really important everybody understands how serious this is! Be safe, avoid crowds, wear face coverings, and avoid non #covidsafe businesses. We all have a role to play!”
Infection rates have gone up quite rapidly prompting chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty to say the nation is “not yet in trouble, but heading for trouble” in these circumstances.
The Government said that as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 3,330 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
Tough new Covid-19 lockdown measures were announced for parts of the UK on Friday as cases continued to rise and as the R number – the reproduction number of coronavirus transmission – climbed above one.
According to Government advisers, the last time R was above one was in early March.
The cases are most common among the 19-21 age group but there is concern that the rises in younger people may then move quickly through different older age groups.
Other warning signs also include a rise in the percentage of positive tests which can not be put down to more testing taking place.
The rules will apply across England to all ages and in any setting either indoor and outdoors, at home or a pub.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it is safer to meet outdoors and people should keep their distance from anyone they do not live with, even if they are close friends or family.
He said people “must not meet socially in groups of more than six – and if you do, you will be breaking the law.”
The “limited” exemptions include allowing a single household or support bubble that is larger than six to still be able to gather.
Covid-secure venues like places of worship, gyms, restaurants, hospitality settings can still hold more than six in total.
Mr Johnson warned that “there must not be individual groups larger than six and groups must not mix socially or form larger groups.”
Education and work setting are not affected by the new rules.
Weddings and funerals can go ahead up to a limit of 30 people as long as they are held in a Covid-secure way and organised sport will also be able to proceed.
The new rules replace the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30 people and current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors.
Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “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 exceed the limit of six people.
“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.”
Social gathering rules are to be kept under constant review.
Mr Johnson said the new rules will be enforced by the police and anyone breaking them risks being “dispersed, fined and possibly arrested”.
Failure to stick to the new rules could mean a £100 fine, which will double with every subsequent offence up to £3,200.
Venues where people gather will now be “legally required” to get and keep the contact details of a member of every group for 21 days in order to provide them to NHS test and trace “without delay” if needed.
The hospitality venue could face a fine if it fails to stick to the Covid-security standards and the government pledged to back local authorities to make “further and faster use of their powers” against venues who break the rules.
Venues like pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas must have a system in place by law to record contact details of their customers, visitors and staff by September 18.
A name, a contact number, date of visit, arrival time and – if possible – departure time are among the details which will be needed.
Fines could be handed out if premises fail to collect contact information or book in groups of more than six. Further details on the rules are soon to be announced.
Covid-secure marshals are to be introduced to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres. A register of environmental health officers is also to be
set up to help local authorities.
Border force will step up enforcement of quarantine for travellers into the country.
Mr Johnson said there will also be a restriction of opening hours of premises in “some local areas”.
Questions remain on the specifics of the measures, but further guidance is expected to be issued by the Government.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she cannot rule out changing the number of people allowed to gather together in Scotland as the average number of daily positive cases has trebled in three weeks.
A maximum of eight people from three households can currently meet indoors in Scotland, except in areas subject to tighter restrictions, while up to 15 people from five households can meet outside.
In Wales, up to 30 people can meet outdoors and in Northern Ireland the number is 15.
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