Rule six: social distancing rules and exemptions


Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Science Officer Sir Patrick Vallance have agreed action is urgently needed after the number of positive cases soars.

Where do these rules apply?

As the tier system continues, the rule of six will apply across England to all ages and indoor and outdoor gatherings, depending, most importantly, on what level your region is in.

This will include private homes, parks, pubs, restaurants and sporting events.

At level 1, you cannot sit at a pub or restaurant table with more than five friends at a time. At level 2 and above, it is forbidden to meet anyone inside beyond your home or support bubble.

What are the exemptions?

Support bubbles

Households or support bubbles of more than six people are exempt from the new rules. Support bubbles allow adults living alone and single parents with children under the age of 18 to move to another household. This means that they can do things like visit their home, stay overnight, and travel together in vehicles.


These will still be allowed to take place, with ceremonies and receptions for up to 15 people. However, Mr Johnson has made it clear that they must be carried out in a secure manner by Covid. Guests should stand or sit at least three feet apart, as well as other safety precautions.


These can continue to happen, with 30 people allowed to pay their respects. The government was once criticized at the start of the pandemic when councils limited mourners to groups of five to ten.

Funeral directors accused the councils of misinterpreting foreclosure rules by banning family members from crematoria and cemeteries and by going “far beyond” their legal powers.

Matt Hancock said he regretted the move because it meant that “at the height of the pandemic, many people did not attend the funeral of even someone they have been married to for 50 years.”

Schools and offices

Schools and workplaces continue to operate under existing Covid guidelines, which provide for year groups to be kept in bubbles, classrooms reconfigured and masks worn in common areas.

However, the Prime Minister encouraged people to walk home whenever possible.

Read more: Will schools close again?

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Pubs and restaurants

In Level 1 areas, groups will be limited to six, however, accommodation facilities secured by Covid will still be able to accommodate a larger number of people. They will be legally required to request testing and traceability information from customers and to retain details for 21 days.

All pubs, bars and restaurants must now offer table service only, with the exception of take-out. With all reception venues, they must close at 10 p.m.

Places of worship

Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples will remain open, although congregations will have to stay at least one meter from each other. According to existing guidelines, services should end as quickly as possible, with devotees encouraged to leave “quickly” thereafter.

This came after the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed that the rule of six would not apply to churches, writing on Twitter: “Worship is the work of God – not a social gathering – and gives strength to ‘love and serve. “

Sport events

All adult team sporting events will now be legally bound to adhere to the rule of six with only six players now allowed to play at any one time. This will include indoor five-a-side football matches and the expected return of spectators to sports venues.

Grouse shot

The government has come under fire after giving grouse hunting a special exemption from the rule of six.

Hunting with weapons has been included on a list of sports, pursuits and outdoor activities where groups of up to 30 people will still be allowed to assemble, despite the introduction of the new restrictions.

It is understood that the exemption was granted after the Special Ministerial Committee on Covid-19 Operations of the Cabinet Office convened a meeting to discuss hunting and shooting specifically.

Will there be an exception at Christmas?

Perhaps. On November 20, The Telegraph exclusively revealed the government’s plan to allow a week of freedom over the Christmas period. The Prime Minister is expected to announce an easing of restrictions between December 22 and 28 when several families will reunite in “a bubble”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be the driving force behind the relaxation of the rules, which will begin days before Christmas. This will allow people to enjoy “normal days” in pubs and restaurants before the holidays.

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The severity of the restrictions heading into December 22, however, will depend on the success of the current lockdown when it ends on December 2.


Medium level / level one

  • People should not gather in groups of more than six, indoors or outdoors.

High level / level two

This is for areas with a higher level of infection. This means that the following additional measures are in place:

  • People should not meet anyone outside of their home or support the bubble in an indoor environment, whether at home or in a public place
  • The “rule of six” will continue to apply outdoors and in private gardens.

Very high level / level three

This is for areas with a very high level of infections. The government will establish a basis of measures for any zone at this local alert level. Consultation with local authorities will determine additional measures.

The baseline means that the following additional measures are in place:

  • Wedding receptions are not allowed
  • People should not meet anyone outside of their home or support the bubble in an indoor or outdoor setting, either at home or in a public space. The rule of six applies in open public spaces like parks and beaches.
  • People should avoid spending the night in another part of the UK if they live in a “very high” area, or avoid spending the night in a “very high” area if they live elsewhere.

Am I going to be punished for breaking the rules?

The government hopes the new rules will be easier for people to understand. It will also make it easier for the police to stop large gatherings.

Failure to comply with the new rules could result in a fine of £ 200, which will double with each subsequent violation up to £ 3,200.

What does the Prime Minister say?

At a press conference on September 30, the prime minister said it was “too early to tell” the effectiveness of the “rule of six” since its introduction.

Standing alongside Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Science Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister said:

“What we hope is that if people obey the guidelines – follow the guidelines – the way they can and as they have in the past, we will again reduce the spread (of the virus).

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“The strategy is to do this while keeping the economy open – the vast majority of the economy open – and keeping young people in education. These priorities must be absolutely crucial.

“I am convinced that we can do it together if we follow the instructions. But our success will have to be judged in the days and week to come.

“It is still too early to say whether this package of measures will succeed.”

What are the rules in other parts of the UK?

Different rules apply to social gatherings elsewhere in the UK.

Scotland recently announced a four tier system, which has placed 11 of its central and western areas, including Glasgow, in near complete lockdown.

Northern Ireland has announced a circuit breaker lockout that is expected to begin on November 27. This will result in the closure of all non-essential businesses, among other nationwide and imposed restrictions. Northern Ireland also has a rule of six which is likely to resume after their breaker locks out.

In Wales their ‘firewall’ lockdown is complete and the rule of six is ​​still in effect.

How can we safely socialize?

A campaign has been launched to encourage people to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, as people are more likely to socialize indoors during fall and winter.

The Hands Face Space campaign urges people to wash their hands, use a mask if necessary, and stay at least two meters apart – or one meter away with a face mask or other precautions .

The campaign says these are the three most effective ways for the public to contain the spread of the virus.

When might we see the end of the rule of six?

Recent news about the vaccine saw the government’s plan to vaccinate 44 million adults by April 2021 hailed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said he was “increasingly confident” that life will be closer to normal in the spring. Other ministers have called it a “ray of light”, which can reintroduce us into everyday life.



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