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The policing minister has encouraged people to report their neighbours for not complying with the new “rule of six” coronavirus restriction as it came into force in England.
From Monday, social gatherings of more than six people are illegal, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the measure in indoor and outdoor settings.
Kit Malthouse said concerned neighbours should ring the non-emergency police number 101 to report violations.
“We are in discussions about what reporting mechanisms there might be, but there is obviously the non-emergency number that people can ring and report issues they wish to,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked if this included contacting police over a gathering of seven or more people in a neighbour’s garden, Malthouse added: “It is open to neighbours to do exactly that through the non-emergency number, and if they are concerned and they do see that kind of thing, then absolutely they should think about it.”
His comments came as the government published the new legislation on social gatherings in full on Sunday night, around 30 minutes before they came into effect.
Under the law, people in England must not participate in a gathering of more than six people in private or public settings unless all the people in the gathering are from the same household, or where a support bubble consists of more than six people.
Exemptions include funerals and organised team sports that are carried out in a Covid-secure manner, including social distancing being observed.
Weddings are also still allowed to go ahead with up to 30 guests, provided they take place at a Covid-secure venue where a risk assessment has been carried out, and not in a private home or garden.
Gatherings of more than six people in work or education settings are exempt from the rules, while places of worship, gyms, restaurants and other hospitality venues can still hold more than six people provided individual groups within them are no larger than six.
In areas affected by partial local lockdowns –including Leicester, parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire – the rule does not apply as people are prevented from socialising with people they do not live with in private and public settings, unless they are in their support bubble.
Following Malthouse’s comments, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chairman, Martin Hewitt, denied that the enforcement of the rule of six would rely on people “grassing up” their neighbours.
“I think what it relies on is all of us being responsible,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“We all have a responsibility to do what we can do, to take the steps that are required to stop the transmission and to abide by regulations so we can prevent this disease moving further through the country.”
Deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Metropolitan police’s response to coronavirus, said officers will be deployed in every borough in the capital to patrol public spaces and respond swiftly to incidents where groups gather in large numbers. “Where people just won’t listen, and are putting everyone at risk, we absolutely will take enforcement action,” he said.
The new measures follows a spike in coronavirus cases across the UK, with more than 3,000 cases recorded for the third day in a row on Sunday – the first time since May that cases were above 3,000 on three consecutive days.
Previously, people in England were prevented from participating in gatherings of more than 30.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Police minister: report neighbours who flout England’s Covid ‘rule of six’ | Coronavirus outbreak