With the UK coronavirus lockdown easing, it's good to remind ourselves of the rules surrounding meet-ups outside and indoors with family and friends.
Although we’ve been under a form of lockdown for a long time now, local outbreaks and further local lockdowns have led the government to enforce new restrictions on how many households and people can meet up both outside and indoors.
On September 8, the government announced the first full set of law-enforced restrictions across the whole of England since lockdown began, following the biggest nationwide surge in cases since May. Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared on Radio 4 and suggested that in France and Spain, a “second wave started largely amongst younger people, it then spreads.”
“And now we’re seeing a sharp rise in the number of people in hospital and the number of people who are dying in those countries.
“That hasn’t happened here yet. And if people follow the social distancing rules, then we can stop that from happening here.”
So as it has been throughout the lockdown, it’s important to know what the rules are so you can keep yourself, your loved ones and help to keep the rest of the general public safe.
This includes being aware of which countries have recently been put on the UK quarantine list so you know when to self-isolate and the rules around sending your child to school if they have a cold. The government has recently also made the new NHS contact tracing app available for download, where those who live in England and Wales can track the rising coronavirus cases in their area and log symptoms.
According to the government, how many people can meet outside and indoors?
How many households can meet in the UK?
The government website and new guidance issued on September 9 states that in England from September 14, you must not meet up with people from other households socially in groups of more than 6. The same, they say, applies to any trips to pubs or restaurants, too. Naturally, those who live in households and have support bubbles that are over six people are exempt from this rule.
Previous guidelines allowed for two households of any size to mix, but now this is no longer the case. In the coronavirus briefing on Wednesday September 9, Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered the example that “two whole households will no longer be able to meet if the total exceeds the limit of six people.”
He also said, “Over time the rules have become quite complicated and confusing.
“We are simplifying and strengthening the rules, making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.
“This single measure replaces both the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors. Now you only need to remember the rule of six.”
Clarifying exactly what this means exactly, the government have also said…
“When seeing friends and family you do not live with you should:
- follow social distancing rules
- limit how many different people you see socially over a short period of time
- meet people outdoors where practical: meeting people outdoors is safer than meeting people indoors because fresh air provides better ventilation
“Limits on the number of people you can see socially are changing. From Monday 14 September, when meeting friends and family you do not live with you must not meet in a group of more than 6 indoors or outdoors.”
The new changes will not affect children going back to school but due to the most recent changes which take place from September 24, those who were returning to offices will now be asked to work from home.
Ahead of the announcement last week, Boris Johnson said, “We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact – making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.
“It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others, and getting a test if you have symptoms.”
He followed this by saying at Prime Minister’s Question Time that the advice is “clear and simple” and that it was “absolutely vital to protect life.”
Different rules, however, will apply to the areas who have been put under tighter local lockdown restrictions and these will likely remain in place following the tighter laws across the country. In the new lockdown areas, which include areas in the north of England, residents are no longer allowed to meet people outside of their own household – whether indoors or outside, unless they are in their support bubble.
But now under the new guidelines, how many people exactly can meet out outside and inside?
How many people can meet up outside?
At this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK government have stipulated that in England, you should not meet in a group of more than six people under any circumstances from different households outside. This does not include meeting up with more than six people who are in your support bubble.
You should still social distance when meeting up outside, however, and take all the necessary precautions such as hand washing and, for example, avoiding sharing cutlery and/or drinks.
However, the rules officially state that you can meet in larger groups outside “if necessary for work, voluntary or charitable services, education, childcare or training, elite sporting competition or training, to fulfil legal obligations.”
On Tuesday September 22, Boris Johnson addressed MPs and outlined the latest in the measures being introduced. “We’re acting on the principle that a stitch in time saves time.” He said, adding that there are more restrictions on the rule of six coming into place. Now, a maximum of 15 people can gather for a wedding with 30 people still allowed to attend a funeral. The same restrictions on rules of six will now also apply to sports teams.
In Scotland, it has been announced that the number of people allowed to meet up in Scotland has been cut to six people due to worries over positive cases of the virus emerging in the country. Scotland had planned changes to the lockdown rules for next week but they have now been put off until at least October 5. This means that theatres and live music venues, soft play centres and indoor contact sports for people over the age of 12 will be off the table until the next review of the measures.
In other parts of the UK though, the rules are slightly different.
In Wales, up to 30 people can still meet up outside.
In Northern Ireland, groups of up to 15 people can meet outdoors without restriction.
Can people meet indoors and how many people can meet indoors?
You are allowed to meet up indoors, but you should only meet inside in groups of less than six, according to the latest guidance from the government. They explain that this includes visiting people, or having them visit your home. You are also now permitted to stay overnight in someone else’s home, but from September 14 this must be with less than six other people.
The rules state that social distancing should still be observed (as far as possible), as the risk of transmission of the virus is still higher indoors than it is outside.
However, if you are in a support bubble (if you are a grandparent, or are in a support bubble with a grandparent for example), you do not need to maintain a social distance.
These rules also mean that technically, you should not be interacting socially with anyone outside of your household, or one other household outside or in an enclosed social setting, such as a pub, restaurant, or a place of worship. So, for example, you should only share a table at a restaurant with one other household, or members of your own household and in groups of less than six people.
In some parts of the UK, indoor meetings are now totally banned however, as these new lockdown areas have stricter restrictions in place.
The new rules on how many people can meet have come as the government has started pushing for people to return back to the office and schools opened for the new term, under strict safety regulations, earlier in the month.
Rules to follow when meeting up with other households both outside and indoors
- Wear a face covering on all forms of public transport and in any indoor spaces where social distancing can’t be maintained.
- If possible, move outdoors where there is more space so the virus can’t spread as easily.
- If you have to stay indoors, make sure rooms are well ventilated and keep the windows and all doors open.
- Clinically vulnerable people (including those with underlying health conditions and those over 70) can still meet people indoors and outdoors, but extra care should be taken around increased hygiene and social distancing.
- You can use public transport if you are travelling to visit someone indoor or outdoors now, but the government urges that if you can travel in another way, you should do so.
- You can, with ventilation and a focus on hygiene, share a private vehicle with someone from outside of your household. But if possible, avoid doing this.
How many different households can meet up?
Under the new guidance, people can meet outside and indoors with up to six people, with no specifications on how many different households this could be – unlike in previous guidelines. The government advises that when you do see friends and family outside of your household, along with meeting in groups of six or less, you follow social distancing rules and limit how many people you see over a short period of time. They also suggest that people should meet outdoors where practical as the circulation of fresh air offers better ventilation.
When meeting up with other households in a group of six, it’s also not allowed to mingle with others outside that group. So if you go to a pub or restaurant and see someone you know, currently you’re not allowed to break social distancing protocol and sit with them.
Do babies and children count in the rule of six?
The government has confirmed that babies and children do count in the rule of six as children of any age are included in the new measures. This means that you’ll have to count them in if you’re looking to book a table at a restaurant and remember to include them if you’re socialising outside your household.
There are some exemptions to the rule when it comes to children, however. Under the new government guidelines, to ‘continue existing arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents’ families are allowed to break the ‘rule of six”. The rule also applies to educational settings such as schools, training, registered childcare and before- and after-school group activities. This is so that separated parents can continue to see their children through the pandemic and those that need to get back into work are able to, with the added support of child care.
What are the exemptions to the new law of six people only?
Even though the new rules on how many people can meet outside and indoors have now been put under law, there are some exceptions to the rules. It’s still legal to…
- See anyone that you live with or are in a support bubble with, and continue any arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents.
- Meet with more than six people for work, voluntary or charitable services.
- Meet with more than six people if it’s for education, training or registered childcare.
- Meet in a larger group if you are fulfilling legal obligations, such as going to court or attending jury service.
- Be in a group of more than six people if you are providing emergency assistance or offering support to a vulnerable person.
- Gather in a larger group if you or someone else is doing so to avoid illness, injury or harm.
- Participate in children’s playgroups.
- Go to a wedding, civil partnership ceremony and receptions, or other religious ceremonies. Here as of September 22, only 15 people can attend.
- Attend a funeral of up to 30 people.
- Organise and participate in indoor and outdoor sports, physical activity and exercise classes. This means that gyms will be able to stay open.
- Facilitate and go to youth group and activities, which includes after-school programs.
- Attend elite sporting competition or training.
- Go to protests and political activities organised with strict Covid-19 guidance and risk assessments.
During these events, the government advises that organisers follow the new safety slogan of “Hands, Face, Space” to ensure good hygiene and social distancing is upheld. This means washing your hands regularly and for 20 seconds, wearing a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing is difficult and you will come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, and staying two metres apart from people who you don’t live with. If this isn’t possible, the government advises staying one metre away.
What new powers have been given to the police to enforce the law?
From September 14, the rules on how many people can meet outside and indoors changed. So all indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than six people were banned throughout England and the police have been given further powers by the government to help enforce the new guidance. Although there are some exceptions for workplaces, schools and special occasions like weddings and funerals, the new guidance has clarified the difference between the ‘rules’ and ‘the law’.
The rules in place before September 14 said that outdoor gatherings of more than six people should only take place if everyone is from two households only. But the police were only able to disperse groups and fine organisers if the gathering was larger than 30 people. Now, the new rules are backed by law and the police can take similar action if you are in groups of more than six people. Those found to be breaching the new rules could be fined anywhere from £100 to £3,200, with significantly higher penalties given to those found to be organising mass gatherings.
Speaking about the changes, a source from the government said, “Putting the new, lower limit in law will make it easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings.”
It’s hoped that new rules on how many people can meet outside and indoors, which seem to be ever-changing, will help to prevent the spread of the virus any further and settle some of the population back into normal life.