“Rule of six” to fight COVID-19 comes into effect in UK

In order to curb the rise in coronavirus cases, tough new limits on social gatherings came into force in Britain on Monday, meaning that in most regions, it is now illegal for groups of more than six to meet up.

The “rule of six” kicked off at midnight across England, Wales and Scotland in the latest push to curb the recent surge in coronavirus infections.

The new rule applies across indoor and outdoor settings, with police able to disperse gatherings of over six people and fine individuals involved.

The new restrictions were imposed after the country’s reproduction, or R, number escalated to between one and 1.2 for the first time since March.

On Sunday, more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases were reported for the third day in a row — the first time since May that the grim threshold was hit on three consecutive days.

LIMITED SOCIAL GATHERINGS

The new “rule of six” simplifies and strengthens the rules on social gatherings, making Britons easier to understand and easier for the police to enforce.

It means that, apart from a set of limited exemptions including work and education, any social gatherings of more than six people will be against the law.

Police officers are empowered to disperse any unlawful gatherings and fine individuals involved 100 pounds (about 128.87 U.S. dollars), doubling up to a maximum of 3,200 pounds(about 4,120.06 dollars).

It remains the case that organisers and facilitators of larger gatherings of more than 30 people, such as unlicensed music events, can be subject to fines of up to 10,000 pounds (12,887.35 dollars).

“As we continue to fight this virus, I urge the public not participate in social gatherings of more than six people in any setting, indoors or outdoors,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.

British police have continued to step up patrols in recent weeks and have cracked down on illegal gatherings during the pandemic. Deployments in some areas of concern, such as Leicester and Greater Manchester, have been larger than on New Year’s Eve.

REPORTING MECHANISM UNDER DISCUSSION

Kit Malthouse, the MP for North West Hampshire, encouraged people to use the non-emergency phone number to report any suspected violations.

“We are in discussions about what reporting mechanisms there might be, but there is obviously the non-emergency number that people can ring and report issues they wish to,” he said.

When asked about whether people should report gatherings larger than six in a neighbour’s garden, Malthouse said: “It is open to neighbours to do exactly that through the non-emergency number, and if they are concerned and the do see that kind of thing, then absolutely they should think about it.”

Meanwhile, Professor Bobby Duffy, director of King’s College London’s policy institute, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One it was “relatively rare” for people to report others, and the crisis had prompted a rise in positive feelings towards local communities.

One in 20 people said in a survey of attitudes during the pandemic that they had reported others for rule breaches, BBC said.

RISK OF A SECOND WAVE

A recent survey carried out by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that 86 percent of doctors in England anticipated a “second wave” of the coronavirus pandemic in the country in the next six months.

In a poll of more than 8,000 doctors and medical students, 53.66 percent of respondents viewed a second wave as “very likely”, while a further 32.05 percent answered “quite likely”, local media reported Monday.

Nearly 50 percent said that a second peak was their top concern for the health service this winter, while the capacity to deal with the ongoing coronavirus cases as well as the restart other routine care appointments was most concerning for over 35 percent of respondents.

The chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Chaand Nagpaul, said that now is the time for the government to “stamp down the spread of the infection.”

“Over recent weeks and months, we have seen the failures of test and trace, and ongoing confusing messages to the public on what they can and cannot do, which have resulted in escalation of the virus spreading — these have both been highlighted by doctors as key priorities to get right if we are to stand a chance of preventing a second peak this winter,” he said.