Number 10 has defended its decision to include children in the ‘rule of six’ – saying it was based on ‘all the evidence.’
And Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said reports of a cabinet split on the new Covid-19 rules were “not accurate”.
The Prime Minister was under pressure overnight to relax the new restrictions to exempt children.
Under England’s rules, even a baby or toddler is counted in the new measures, which ban seven or more people from socialising together.
In both Scotland and Wales, however, children under 12 will be exempt from the limit of six people.
But asked if the PM was considering watering down the rule to exclude youngsters, Number 10 indicated that they would not.
The PM’s spokesman said: “We looked at all of the evidence in advance of the decision that was reached on Wednesday and it was decided to proceed with a rule of six that applies to all ages.
“What we’ve done is ensure the rules have been simplified and strengthened so they are easier to understand.
“Social distancing measures can only be effective if the public understand them and abide by them.”
He added: “We have taken a decision now in order that we can bring the virus under control and therefore hopefully be in a position to lift some of the restrictions. But it’s important we act now if we’re going to achieve that.”
It was reported last night that several cabinet ministers at a Downing Street sub-committee had raised concerns about the figure of six people – arguing it should be raised to eight.
Those reported to have raised concerns about the number six include Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
But the spokesman said the reporting was “not accurate.”
Hancock has said the new restrictions will not be kept in place “for any longer than we have to”.
Discussing the new rule, he told MPs: “As the chief medical officer said [on Wednesday], we must learn from the recent experience of countries like Belgium who successfully put in place these measures to combat a similar rise in infections.”
He added: “These are not measures that we take lightly. I understand that for many they’ll mean changing long-awaited plans or missing out on precious moments with loved ones, but this sacrifice is vital to control the virus for the long term and save lives.
“And I vow that we will not keep these rules in place for any longer than we have to.”