Restrictions banning social gatherings of more than six people came into effect in England, following the rise in coronavirus cases.
The “rule of six”
Similar restrictions in Wales and Scotland do not include children under the age of 11 and 12, respectively.
The government said the new rules on social distancing are easier for people to understand.
But some Conservative MPs have pushed the government to follow Wales and Scotland in the small child exemption.
Former minister Steve Baker said the government’s latest action amounted to “arbitrary powers out of control” and Congressman Desmond Swayne said it was “outrageous” not to have a parliamentary debate.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove defended the new measures in England as “absolutely right”, saying some people had “unwittingly” contributed to the spread of the virus because of the way they interacted.
“Therefore, a clear message – as simple as possible – makes it easier for all of us to do what is useful to others,” Gove said.
Interior Minister Priti Patel urged the public not to break the rules.
Patel said: “Across the country, we have all made huge sacrifices in the fight against coronavirus. However, the recent increase in cases makes it clear that more needs to be done to stop the spread of this disease.”
Under the new rules, larger gatherings are still allowed in gyms, schools, places of worship, weddings and funerals. Education and work settings are not affected.
The “rule of six” in England replaces the current ban on gatherings of more than 30 people and current guidelines for allowing two families to meet at home.
England, Scotland and Wales each have new restrictions. Northern Ireland has not announced any changes.
Groups larger than six can be dismembered by the police, with group members having to pay fines of £ 100 for a first offense, doubling for each further offense up to £ 3,200.
The Metropolitan Police said it will deploy resources across the capital to enforce stricter restrictions on social gatherings.
But the West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents base officers, warned that staff are already so strained that relying solely on the police to enforce the new law is unrealistic.
National Police Chiefs Council Chairman Martin Hewitt said preventing the spread of the coronavirus is “a shared effort”.
He said: “The demands on the police service are now at similar levels as before the pandemic, which makes it critically important that we all take personal responsibility, stick to limits and prevent the spread of this deadly virus.”
The government has said that Covid-protected marshals will be introduced in cities and urban centers to ensure compliance with the rules.
But local councils – which are supposed to provide the staff – say they should be fully funded.
The new rules come as the UK’s R number is rising, climbing between 1 and 1.2 for the first time since March.
Any number above one indicates that the number of infections is increasing.
A further 3,330 positive cases were recorded in the UK on Sunday, the third consecutive day in which cases were over 3,000.
Five other deaths have also been reported from people who had a positive test in the previous 28 days, bringing the UK total to 41,628.
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