UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced tightening of social distancing rules by banning social gatherings of more than six people in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
The new rules will be implemented in England from September 14 as the legal limit on social gatherings has been cut down from 30 to single digits in response to a recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, reports Xinhua news agency.
The new measures, revealed after the number of daily cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000 on Wednesday, will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors, including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.
Exemptions will apply for schools, weddings, funerals and organized team sports in a coronavirus-secure way, according to Johnson.
Addressing a Downing Street press conference, Johnson said that the virus has “evolved over many months”, but it “still remains true we want people to be able and confident to go back to work in a coronavirus-secure way and pupils back in school is a priority”.
The “whole objective is to allow that to continue” and today’s restrictions “clarify, simplify and intensify the message so everyone understands the rule of six… preventing another wholesale lockdown”, he said.
“It is important to take tough measures now,” the Prime Minister said, adding that he believes the UK will “continue to drive this virus down and beat this virus before too long”.
“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.”
Violators of the new measures will risk a 100-pound ($130) fine, with Johnson warning that they could also face arrest.
“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,” he said.
Johnson said he was “still hopeful” that the restrictions would be relaxed by Christmas.
But he suggested that this requires the “moonshot” of mass-testing, adding: “We are aiming for that. We are driving for that. As I have said…We cannot be 100 percent sure that we can deliver that in its entirety.”
Also speaking at the press conference, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic is going to be “difficult” between now and the spring.
“People should not see this as a short-term thing,” Whitty said.
As of Thursday, the UK has so far reported 357,597 coronavirus cases and 41,683 deaths.