Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday banned social gatherings of more than six people in England, making it illegal to gather in groups of seven or more from Sept. 14.
The new rule bans more than six people from meeting socially either indoors or outdoors.
The fine for non-compliance is 100 pounds ($129) for the first offense, which will double on subsequent offenses up to a maximum fine of 3,200 pounds ($4,142).
The new rules do not apply to households or bubbles of more than six, nor to workplaces and schools that already have “COVID-secure” arrangements.
Organized team sports and gatherings of up to 30 people for weddings, funerals, and christenings are also exempt.
It will now be a legal requirement for pubs, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses to collect customers’ details to facilitate contact tracing. This was formerly voluntary.
COVID-secure “marshals” will be appointed to give local authorities more enforcement powers and to make sure rules are being followed in towns and cities.
A provisional plan to reopen stadiums and conference halls on Oct. 1 will also now be reviewed.
In his briefing from Downing Street, Johnson said he had “spoken to police officers about what they need for an effective enforcement regime.”
He was now “simplifying and strengthening the rules” and “making them easier for everyone to understand and for the police to enforce,” he said.
Describing the new regulations that supersede previous rules as “the rule of six,” he said rule-breakers would be “dispersed, fined, or possibly arrested.”
Easier to Enforce
The new easier-to-enforce rules follow British police receiving criticism for breaking up illegal social gatherings.
Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Ian Hopkins, told BBC Radio 5 last month that the police “can’t win” in dealing with violations of the CCP virus restrictions after officers had disrupted a child’s birthday party and issued a fine to the homeowner.
Hopkins said at the time that the police were in a “difficult position,” because if they didn’t enforce the restrictions, people who abide by the rules are “saying it’s not fair,” and if they did, people are saying it’s “heavy handed” and like a “police state.”
Prior to Johnson’s announcement, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, explained the government’s reasoning using a series of graphs that show increases in cases in 15 to 29-year-olds, which he said was a “real phenomenon” and not because of mass testing.
Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre of Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), and Tom Jefferson, honorary senior research fellow at the center, recently suggested that this increase in cases among younger people may be because younger people had better immune systems and were likely clearing their systems of fragments of the virus, which were picked up by testing but were not infectious.
“One likely reason is because the test as currently used is not capable of distinguishing those who harbor live virus (infectious) from those who carry fragments of it (not infectious),” Jefferson told The Epoch Times on Friday in a comment on the recent increase in positive cases.
“So we have many ‘cases’ which are not infectious or dangerous to the health of the public,” he said.
The tougher rules to slow the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, were welcomed by other scientists.
David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and chair of the British Medical Association’s Medical Academic Staff Committee, said that only by implementing tougher measures could progress on beating the pandemic be made.
“It will only be through an aggressive policy that life can return to any semblance of normality or, indeed, even make it through the approaching winter with the potential ‘twindemic’ of influenza with the existing coronaviral load,” he said in a statement.
Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, agreed, saying, “Now that schools and businesses are opening, it is important that all possible infection control measures are undertaken.”
Liam Smeeth, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said, “Sadly, the current reproduction number and infection incidence rates are not as low as had been hoped. … The reminder of the basic measures everyone needs to take to reduce transmission and the tighter restrictions on social gatherings are needed to try and keep the pandemic under control.”
New confirmed cases in the UK, in contrast, have risen sharply, increasing by over 8,000 since Sunday to a total of 355,219.
Tighter restrictions were already in place in some local areas, for example in Bolton in the north of England, which has the highest new infection rate in England.
Johnson’s new regulations apply to England only, with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland setting their own rules on restrictions.
Lily Zhou contributed to this report