Coronavirus: Limit social contact as much as possible, urges Boris Johnson

September 09, 2020

Boris Johnson has urged people to limit social contact as much as possible, has he confirmed a ban on gatherings of more than six individuals in England will come into force from Monday.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, the prime minister admitted the coronavirus rules had become "complicated and confusing".

:: Follow live coverage of the latest coronavirus news and updates

He said this latest move, the biggest crackdown since the COVID-19 lockdown was eased earlier this summer, was aimed at "simplifying and strengthening the rules" and "making them easier for everyone to understand".

"You must not meet socially in groups of more than six," Mr Johnson said.

He added: "The ban will be set out in law and it will be enforced by the police - anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested."

The ban will apply to indoor and outdoor gatherings, including private homes, parks, pubs and restaurants.

Gatherings will still be allowed where the household or support bubble is larger than six, or where gathering is for work or education.

Weddings, funerals and organised team sports will also be exempt.

The PM said "COVID-secure" venues like places of worship, gyms, restaurants and hospitality venues will still be able to hold more than six people in total.

But within those venues, there must not be individual groups larger than six and groups cannot mix socially or form larger groups.

The "rule of six" will be kept under "constant review", Mr Johnson said, and the government will "only keep it in place as long as is necessary".

The PM also revealed:

  • Social premises and venues, including pubs and restaurants, will now be legally required to request test and trace information from customers and keep details for 21 days
  • Marshals will be drafted in to help ensure social distancing is maintained in town and city centres
  • Border Force will be stepping up the enforcement of quarantine rules for travellers into the country
  • Pilots of sports and entertainment events will be be reviewed
  • The government is "working hard" to increase testing capacity to 500,000 a day
  • New guidance will be issued to universities on how they can remain open to students in a "COVID-secure" way

Looking to the future, Mr Johnson spoke about his ambition for there to be mass testing of the population to allow a return to a more normal life.

"We want to start using testing to identify people who are negative - who don't have coronavirus and who are not infectious - so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way, in the knowledge they cannot infect anyone else with the virus," he said.

"And we think, we hope, we believe that new types of test which are simple, quick and scalable will become available.

"They use swabs or saliva and can turn round results in 90 or even 20 minutes.

"Crucially, it should be possible to deploy these tests on a far bigger scale than any country has yet achieved - literally millions of tests processed every single day."

Prior to the PM's address, England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the number of cases was "going up sharply" in the 20-29 and 30-39 age groups.

It comes after the number of daily positive coronavirus cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000 - figures not seen since May.

A total of 2,460 lab-confirmed cases were reported in the UK on Tuesday, following on from 2,948 on Monday and 2,988 on Sunday.

Presenting data from other European countries, Prof Whitty said it was vital to act "rapidly and decisively" when cases rise.

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