Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is still “hopeful” that some level of normality will return by Christmas after confirming that social gatherings of more than six people would be banned from Monday.
In a televised press conference this afternoon, Johnson announced that a new law would be introduced from September 14th that restricts the number of people in an indoor or outdoor gathering to six, replacing the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30.
Pubs, restaurants, shops and other venues – such as places of worship – will be allowed to remain open, but people can only attend in groups of up to six.
The latest tightening of restrictions will give police the powers to break up gatherings of more than six people, and members of a group can be fined £100, doubled on each further offence up to £3,200, if they fail to follow the rules.
The measures follow a spike in coronavirus cases in various parts of England, especially Greater Manchester where a local lockdown has been in place since July 30th.
Trafford has the third lowest infection rate of any Greater Manchester borough. The latest data, for the week ending September 5th, has the seven-day rate at 32, down from 36.7 for the week ending August 29th. The average rate across the whole of Greater Manchester is 59.1.
Speaking this afternoon, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the new restrictions will last for a “block of time”, but he was not able to put an exact time on it.
The current restrictions would mean that large Christmas family gatherings would have to be cancelled, but Johnson said he was “hopeful” that restrictions would be lifted by then.
“Whether we are going to get things back to normal at all by Christmas, I’m still hopeful, as I’ve said before, that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas,” he said.