The government has tightened the rules on social gatherings amid concerns about a spike in coronavirus cases, and has limiting groups to a maximum of six people, although workplaces are exempt from the changes
The move was announced last week by prime minister Boris Johnson, and comes as reported cases of infection have jumped to over 2,000 over three days last week.
The government has indicated that the present rules, which are based on no more than two households mixing and vary depending on whether the meeting is inside or outdoors, are confusing for the public and hard for the police to enforce.
Currently, while there is a legal ban on indoor gatherings of more than 30 people, there are varying guidelines on when and how people can meet up, depending on whether they make up one household or have ‘bubbled’ with another individual.
Instead, in order to make the rules clearer and to stop transmission of the virus, Johnson is expected to say that meeting in larger groups than six people will become illegal in England from Monday.
The ban is extended to cover meeting outdoors in gardens, parks and pubs and restaurants, as well as in people’s homes. Individuals who do not comply with requests to disperse will be fined £100 on the spot, rising to £3,200 for repeat offences.
Workplaces are not covered by the rules, and exemptions will also be made for weddings and funerals.
The government has also indicated more local responses, such as curfews. In Bolton, stricter guidelines have been put in place including requiring pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to operate a takeaway only service and to close at 10pm.
Birmingham will also be hit by local lockdown restrictions from Tuesday 15 September after a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Commenting on the Bolton decision, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘We share the government’s public health objectives as a top priority, so the increased Covid cases in Bolton are obviously regrettable.
‘Hospitality venues have gone out of their way to collect test and trace data, so inevitably will be linked to more cases, despite the reality of infections happening in any setting.
‘It is vital that the government urgently engages with us to help businesses understand what more they can do, and what triggers this level of lockdown.
‘Those hospitality businesses in Bolton who have done the right thing, having made themselves Covid-secure in order to safely trade their way out of a crisis are now being forced to close.
‘There must be an adequate support package to see them through to the other side of this shutdown, with clear criteria for when they can reopen fully.’