When it comes to social distancing in the United Kingdom, six is now the magic number.
Today, the so-called “rule of six” COVID-19 restrictions went into effect. Indoor social gatherings of more than six people are now illegal in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a few exceptions. People who ignore the law could be fined £100 – doubling with each offence to a maximum of £3,200 — the equivalent of $4,122.
“This is against the law and the police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits,” per the official statement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson used the phrase “rule of six” last week when describing the new law in a press conference.
The new restriction applies to indoor restaurants, pubs, cafes, private homes and public places. The rule does not apply to schools, universities and workplaces, and it does not apply to weddings, funerals and organized team sports.
The “rule of six” is being implemented following three consecutive days where the UK had more than 3,000 new positive COVID-19 cases. According to the UK government’s coronavirus dashboard, the UK has had over 368,000 COVID-19 cases and 41,628 deaths.
When it comes to outdoor gatherings, the “rule of six” rules are different, depending on which country you are in. In England, the outdoor limit is six people from multiple households. In Scotland, there can be up to six people age 12 and older from two households. Wales allows up to 30 people to gather outdoors, while Northern Ireland caps the number at 15.
There are also differences in how to count children among those gathered.
In England, for example, the maximum of six people does not consider age. In Scotland, the maximum of six people can be from two households, but children under age 12 are not counted in the total. In Wales, the maximum is six people from an extended household but again, children age 11 and under are not counted.
Amid the media splash, the government seems to understand the difficulty in stopping every private gathering. On BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Kit Malthouse, the British Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service, was asked whether people should report neighbors violating the new law. Mr Malthouse said, “It is open to neighbors to do exactly that through the non-emergency number.”