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Coronavirus: Who is exempt from Boris Johnson’s ‘rule of six’?

Further restrictions on socialising have come into effect in England 

Sarah Young
Saturday 31 October 2020 13:16 GMT
What are the new rules on social gatherings?
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On Monday 14 September, Boris Johnson announced new restrictions on socialising in England, with groups of more than six people banned from meeting.

The prime minister said the new rules were being introduced to combat the rising number of coronavirus cases and prevent another “wholesale national lockdown”.  

On Monday 12 October, Mr Johnson announced another series of lockdown measures, known as the “three tiers” of lockdown, including Medium, High and Very High. The rules include the closure of some hospitality venues and a ban on household mixing in the most extreme cases.

During his speech at the House of Commons, the prime minister also made amendments to the previously stipulated rule of six, adding that the rule will now also be applicable to adult indoor team sports.

Under the new legislation, it is now illegal for people to gather in groups of more than six, with flouters facing fines of £200 for a first time offence.

However, the prime minister said there are “some limited exemptions” to the new restrictions.

So, who doesn’t the “rule of six” apply to? Here is everything you need to know.

Large families and support bubbles

Households and support bubbles of more than six people are exempt from the new rules.

“Where everyone lives together or is in the same support bubble, or to continue existing arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents,” the updated guidelines state.

A support bubble is a small circle of people with whom you can socialise exclusively. The concept allows adults who live alone and single parents with children under 18 to join up with one other household so they can visit each other’s homes, stay the night and travel together in vehicles.


On 14 September, the government said weddings came under the exemption category for the rule of six.

However, on  22 September, the prime minister announced a further restriction on the number of people allowed to attend wedding ceremonies across the country.

Mr Johnson announced that the number of guests at weddings in England would be further reduced from 30 to 15 as of.

“Now is the time to tighten up the rule of six. I’m afraid that from Monday a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions,” he said.

You can read more about the latest rules on weddings here.


Funerals with up to 30 people in attendance are still allowed to take place.

Following his announcement that the number of people allowed to attend weddings had been reduced to 15, Mr Johnson said: “Though up to 30 can still attend a funeral as now.”

The government said that the guidance has been developed to ensure that “bereaved people are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect” and so that “mourners and workers involved in the management of funerals are protected from avoidable risk of infection.”

In March, the government faced criticism after it updated its coronavirus guidelines to limit the number of people allowed to attend funerals to groups of between 5 and 10.

Schools and workplaces

Schools and workplaces will continue to operate under existing Covid-secure guidelines.

The guidelines state that exemptions include work, voluntary and charitable services, registered childcare and education or training.

And supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups.

Fulfilling a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service,  also comes under the exemptions.

During the press briefing, Mr Johnson added that plans for universities to reopen later this month remained unchanged.

Pubs and restaurants

While pubs and restaurants are allowed to stay open, groups will be limited to six. 

So although there will be more than six people in the pub in total, you can only visit with a group of six, including yourself.

Customers will also now be legally required to supply venues with their Test and Trace information.

Places of worship

Places of worship, including churches, synagogues, mosques and temples will stay open, but congregations will be required to adhere to social distancing rules.

It also permits “other religious and belief-based life cycle ceremonies - up to 30 people, in a public place". Although this only covers the ceremonies, and does not include celebrations of these events.

The government states that places of worship play “an important role in providing spiritual leadership for many individuals, and in bringing communities and generations together”. However, it also recognises that their communal nature makes them places that are “particularly vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus”.

Providing support

The rules also exempt groups of people who are providing support to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm.

Support groups - formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support - also are exempt. 

This includes “support to victims of crime, recovering addicts, new parents, people with long-term illnesses, those facing issues relating to their sexuality or gender, and those who have suffered bereavement”, says the government.

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