The 'rule of six': what are the new UK coronavirus restrictions?

What is the ‘rule of six’?

The phrase “rule of six” was used by Boris Johnson in his press conference on Wedndesday, where he announced a ban on meetings of groups of more than six people in England, applying indoors and outdoors from Monday.

The new law replaces existing guidance on no more than two households meeting indoors, meaning that the six individuals can be from up to six households.

Johnson warned that there would be on-the-spot fines of £100, which will double on repeat offences up to £3,200, for those breaking the new rules, which he said were to “avoid a second national lockdown”.

Households and support bubbles of more than six people are exempt.

Since then, Scotland and Wales have brought in their own amended restrictions, also based around gatherings of six people but varying in some key details from England.

How do the rules differ in Scotland?

On Thursday, the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, introduced a new limit of six people from two households gathering together, which applies indoors – in houses, pubs and restaurants – and outdoors, including in private gardens, but exempts children under 12.

She said she was asking people in Scotland to follow the revised limit immediately, although it would officially come into force next Monday.

Any children under 12 who were part of the two households meeting would not count towards the six-person limit, and there is a limited exception for weddings, civil partnerships and funerals.

A complete ban on private indoor gatherings continues to apply in five council areas in the west of Scotland – East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and Glasgow City – where there has been a surge in infections in recent weeks.

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Does six only apply to indoor gatherings in Wales?

Yes, Wales is to limit the number of people who can meet indoors at any one time to six from Monday, excluding children under 11, and all must belong to the same extended household group.

Up to four households are able to join together to form an extended household in Wales. This means all the people living in these separate households become part of one extended household for the purposes of the coronavirus restrictions.

There are no changes to the rules on meeting outdoors. Gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors in Wales. But people should continue to maintain physical distancing from people outside their household or extended household.

These changes will not apply in Caerphilly county borough council area, where local restrictions have been introduced, including a suspension on extended households meeting indoors, to control a sharp rise in cases.

How about Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland has not announced any changes to how many people can gather. But localised coronavirus restrictions are to be introduced in Belfast and Ballymena.

People from two or more households in these areas will not be able to meet in private settings. There are a number of limited exceptions, including childcare provision and households that have formed a social bubble with another.

No more than six people, from no more than two households, will be allowed to meet in private gardens. In Northern Ireland, the number of people who can gather indoors in a private home was already reduced from 10 people from four households to six people from two households last month due to a rise in Covid-19 cases. Up to 15 people can meet outdoors.

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Where can I find more information about the latest changes?

Here is updated guidance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


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