Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as the Government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use a press conference on Wednesday to announce the change in the law after the number of daily positive Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000.
The legal limit on social gatherings will be reduced from 30 people to six. It will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.
Gatherings of more than six people will be allowed where the household or support bubble is larger than six, or where the gathering is for work or education purposes.
Mr Johnson is expected to tell the press conference: “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.”
Downing Street said chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and the Government had jointly agreed that urgent action was needed after the rise in coronavirus cases.
The Government hopes that the change to the law will make it easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings. Failure to comply could result in a £100 fine, which will double on each repeat offence up to £3,200.
Number 10 said Mr Johnson held a virtual roundtable with police forces last week where officers expressed their desire for rules on social contact to be simplified.
The Police Federation of England and Wales urged the Government to “play its part” through a public information campaign after “so many changes in legislation”.
“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.
“My colleagues will support the public through what is going to be a very difficult time. At all times they will also remind people that a breach of these regulations means breaking the law.
“However, the Government needs to play its part. With so many changes in legislation, an effective public information campaign must be a priority – as there’s been so much confusion for the public and many people don’t know exactly what the law says.
“We would urge the public to do the right thing and comply with the new rules, to help protect each other and prevent the further spread of this deadly virus.”