Coronavirus restrictions: What are the new rules for seeing friends and family?

Sir Patrick Vallance Government chief scientific adviser

Sir Patrick Vallance Government chief scientific adviser

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday called for greater powers for police and authorities as he announced England's strictest lockdown measures since social distancing eased in May.

The number of cases in the United Kingdom has begun to rise sharply again in recent days.

From Monday, it will be illegal for people in England to meet socially in groups of more than six people, with a few exemptions.

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It comes after almost 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Sunday in the highest daily rise since May, and a further 2,420 were recorded on Tuesday.

There were 2,460 new infections reported on Tuesday, 2,948 on Monday and 2,988 on Sunday - a sharp rise from levels of around 1,000 per day in August and attributed to high levels of transmission among young people. "The whole point of them is to avoid a second national lockdown", Mr Johnson said.

Gatherings of more than six people will still be allowed where the household or a support bubble are larger than the legal gathering limit.

Currently, up to 30 people from two households are permitted to meet socially, or six from various households.

A full list of exemptions will be published by the government later.

"We've been able to relax a bit over the summer. but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say "Oh well, it's gone away" - this hasn't gone away", said Dr Jonathan Van-Tam, the government's deputy chief medical officer.

The government hopes the change to the law will make it easier for the police to identify and disperse illegal gatherings.

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It will be enforced through a £100 fine if people fail to comply with police, doubling up to a maximum of £3,200.

A hand-sanitiser station on Regent Street.

Different rules apply to social gatherings elsewhere in the UK.

They will, however, apply to gatherings in venues such as pubs and restaurants.

In Wales, up to 30 people can meet outdoors and in Northern Ireland the number is 15.

Commuters ride the London Underground during the coronavirus pandemic.

A top World Health Organization official warned on Tuesday that "there are going to be more spikes and indeed some surges of cases" in the UK.

Professor Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford believes that while a "comprehensive system of national test and trace" has led to an uptick of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the United Kingdom, that does not mean the disease is on the rise.

He said "new mild cases" are not infectious, and are simply being picked up by sensitive tests, providing positive results.

Does this apply to the whole of the United Kingdom?

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