'It's hard to fathom': confusion over England's 'rule of six' on social gatherings


The new “rule of six”, being introduced from Monday, is leading to further confusion around socialising and how to reduce the spread of coronavirus, people around England say. In Scotland and Wales rules differ slightly, with children excluded from the limit.

Many people say they plan to go ahead with gatherings of more than six this weekend ahead of the law, from camping with friends to dinner parties with family.

Matt Brooks, who works in project management, says he will be going to the Bristol beer festival on Friday. “The disconnect between what the government wants and what isn’t allowed is becoming ludicrous,” says Brooks, 30. “We are being encouraged to travel back into town centres to work but told that having more than six people in a house or social setting is unacceptable. It’s increasingly hard to fathom.”

Brooks will be travelling with four other people from three different households. “The event feels as safe as it can be, but with alcohol in the mix it could potentially get a bit risky as the night draws on, so we might depart earlier than we normally would.”

Matt Brooks
Matt Brooks: ‘It’s increasingly hard to fathom’

Sarah Myford, a leisure assistant on furlough, will be attending a triathlon on Saturday. She also sees “no reason to worry” when meeting others outside if socially distancing. “I see no reason not to go,” says Myford, 56, from Cornwall. “I have absolutely no doubt I will be safe.”

Myford, who will be taking part in the Cotswolds end-of-season triathlon in Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire, believes the law is to better help with enforcement. “I think people are taking it the wrong way. As I understand it, it’s to make it easier for police to break up gatherings that are too large. I hope people don’t overreact and cancel perfectly safe, well-regulated outdoor events, as I have a few lined up.”

Sarah Myford.
Sarah Myford: ‘It’s to make it easier for police to break up gatherings’
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In north-west England, Stella, a 21-year-old graduate who does not wish her surname to be published, says she feels a “mixed bag of emotions” about going camping over the weekend with 20 other members from her university’s cèilidh band. “We’re all really looking forward to meeting after so long but I’m guessing that the new restrictions will be in the back of everyone’s minds,” she says.

Stella is concerned about what the law will mean for the group, as they will still be at the campsite on Monday. “Do we become illegal at midnight? Will we get kicked out by police? It would be difficult for us to return home on Sunday, especially with reduced train timetables.

“I’m personally unable to get a refund for my train so I’m sticking with travelling home on Monday, even if it means waking up in an illegal gathering. I feel very conflicted about this, but the only alternative is spending a lot of money and risking long delays.”

In the borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, Lia, who does not wish her surname to be published, says the new law will “do absolutely nothing to stop the spread”. Lia, who is in her 40s and has two children, plans to attend four events over the weekend, ranging from 10 to 30 people. “The new measures are completely idiotic and I expect them to be disregarded,” she says. “Starting next week, most people who want to meet beyond the limit will just book adjacent tables in restaurants.”

She has planned a birthday party for her husband in a local restaurant for later in the month. “We will just split the tables in a way that looks OK in the eyes of the law but still allows us to be all together as a family.

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“It comes down to a complete lack of trust in the government. One of my friends who owns a restaurant in central London said people have been giving false names because they don’t care,” she says. “There has been a Mr Salt and Mrs Pepper and various anagrams of ‘Fuck Hancock’. There have been so many U-turns it’s plain ridiculous. The government has lost accountability and people have stopped listening.”



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