The number of people who can legally gather in one house is to be cut from 30 people to six, under new rules for England aimed at stopping a second coronavirus wave.
Birthday parties, dinner guests, and other large social gatherings at home are again off the agenda – although the government is still encouraging people to go out and spend money in shops and restaurants.
Boris Johnson will unveil the regulations on Wednesday following news that new cases are now rising at a rate of nearly 3,000 a day, up from about 1,000 a day for most of August.
Exemptions include schools, workplaces, Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports. The rules will come into effect on Monday, 14 September
Downing Street confirmed on Tuesday evening that the new measures would apply nationally, indoors and outdoors, and to people of all ages.
It means that people cannot sit at a pub or restaurant table with more than five friends at any given time, although it is unclear how many "bubbles" that group could be a part of. Full guidance on what can and cannot happen will be issued later.
The police will be given powers to break up and fine anyone who breaks the rules, with £100 fines for a first offence escalating as far as £3,200 for repeat offenders,
The government, chief medical officer and chief scientific advisor are all said to have agreed that the measures are necessary.
The new measures coincides with schools across England reopening this week, which some experts fear may increase community transmission. But with education a priority, the government's medical advisors have previously suggested other parts of the economy or society might have to close down to control the virus and allow learning to resume.
Boris Johnson is expected to tell a press conference on Wednesday: “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.”
The government is also planning to launch a new public information campaign reminding people to wash their hands and cover their face. The "Hands. Face. Space." adverts will run across TV, radio and print and will also stress the importance of giving people space.
The Police Federation urged ministers to ensure their new communications strategy was “effective” following “so many changes in legislation”.
Its chair, John Apter, added: “With the increase in confirmed Covid cases, it's no surprise the government has made this announcement. For policing, these constant changes to legislation are becoming the norm. The pressures on policing have increased significantly over recent months and this latest change will add to this pressure. ”
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