The Rule of Six: What England Can Expect from Monday

A ban on social gatherings above six will be enforced by law in England from 14 September. 

The government has recently announced that the new law will ban larger social groups meeting anywhere indoors or outdoors.

However, this will not apply to schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports. The news comes after a rise in cases from 12.5 per 100,000 people to 19.7 per 100,000 in the UK in the last week – with a particular rise in infections among young people. Infections are most notable among the 19 to 21 age group, which are seeing 54 cases per 100,000 people.

In an article published by The Telegraph following the press briefing on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said:

“The reason that we’re doing this… is to prevent another wholesale national lockdown of the kind that we had in March, that is the objective.”

“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.” Said Johnson.

They also outlined the revised guidelines:

What are the new rules?

  • Any gathering of more than six people in England will be illegal from Monday Sep 14th, unless it meets one of a limited list of exemptions
  • This applies to gatherings both indoors and outdoors
  • The new rule does not apply to households or bubbles of more than six, or gatherings for work or education
  • Weddings, funerals, and organised team sports carried out in a Covid-secure way are also exempt
  • People will at first be fined £100, but this will double on each further repeat offence up to £3,200
  • No longer voluntary, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses must now legally collect customers’ details to aid with contact tracing.
  • Covid-secure ‘marshals’ will be hired to monitor rules are being followed
  • Provisional plan to reopen stadiums and conference halls on Oct 1 will now be reviewed

Where do the rules apply?

The rules will apply across England to all ages and to indoor and outdoor gatherings. This will include private homes, parks, pubs, restaurants and sporting events.

This means that you 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.

What are the exemptions?

Support bubbles

Households or support bubbles of more than six people are exempt from the new rules. Support bubbles allow adults who live by themselves and single parents with children under 18 to join up with one other household. This means they can do things such as visit their house, stay the night and travel together in vehicles.


These will still be allowed to go ahead, with ceremonies and receptions of up to 30 people permitted. However, they must be conducted in a Covid-secure way. Guests will have to stand or sit at least one metre apart, as well as taking other safety precautions.


These can continue to occur, with 30 people allowed to pay their respects.

Schools and offices

Schools and workplaces continue to operate under existing Covid guidelines, which include year groups being kept in bubbles, classrooms reconfigured and masks worn in communal areas.

Workers will still be permitted to travel to the office if they can adhere to social distancing rules and guidance published by the Department for Business.

Pubs and restaurants

While groups will be limited to six, Covid-secure hospitality venues will still be able to hold larger numbers of people. However, they will now be legally required to request Test and Trace information from customers and keep the details for 21 days. This used to be voluntary. Gyms will also remain open.

Places of worship

Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples will remain open, although congregations will be required to stay at least one-metre apart. Under the existing guidance, services are expected to conclude as quickly as possible, with worshippers encouraged to leave “promptly” afterwards.

The Government hopes that the change to the law will make it easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings and stem the rise in cases across the country.


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