The government is reportedly considering cutting the maximum number of people who can gather in a single home in England.
On Tuesday, the government reminded the public of its social distancing guidelines and asked people not to break the law. It followed warnings from two scientists that the UK is in for a “bumpy ride” in the coming months as coronavirus cases are “rising exponentially”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock also announced that it will soon be illegal to socialise with other households in Bolton, which now faces even stricter restrictions than other areas of the north of England.
Video: Household gathering limit set to be cut to battle COVID-19 spike
So what are some of the current guidelines and laws in England?
According to the government, you should only meet people you do not live with in three different ways:
In any outdoor space in a group of up to six people from different households; or with up to two households of any number.
If you’re an adult who lives alone – or with dependent children only – which means you can continue to form an exclusive ‘support bubble’ with one other household.
In a group of two households (anyone in your support bubble counts as one household), in any location – public or private, indoors or outdoors. Importantly, it does not need to be the same household each time.
You should always try to remain socially distant when inside with someone from another household. It’s also worth pointing out that support bubbles should not be changed once formed.
So what does this mean in practice?
This means you should only socialise indoors with members of up to two households – including when dining out or going to the pub or restaurant.
It also means you should not hold or attend celebrations (such as parties) where it is difficult to maintain social distancing and avoid close social interaction.
This includes events organised by venues that are taking steps to follow COVID-19 secure guidelines
If you want to stay overnight, you can only do so with your household (including your support bubble) and one other household
What steps should you take?
In terms of hygiene, the government advice is to wash your hands as soon as you are home for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitiser when you are out; use a tissue when sneezing and dispose of it safely; and cough into the crook of your elbow.
If you are at someone else’s house, use a different toilet, try and get to a garden from a side access and avoid sharing play equipment or crockery and cutlery.
People in England are advised to stay either two metres or “one-metre plus” apart.
The “one-metre plus” advice refers to one-metre plus mitigations to help prevent transmission of coronavirus, such as wearing a face mask on public transport when it is not always possible to stay two metres apart.
So what’s actually illegal?
All of the above is an outline of some of the key government guidelines. There are stricter measures which have actually been made into law.
For example, the government says it is currently illegal for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes, including gardens.
Anyone breaking this law could be subject to a £100 fine that doubles in each subsequent offence up to £3,200.
In addition, hosting an illegal gathering of more than 30 people is an offence and police may issue a fine of £10,000 to those who break the law.
Businesses following COVID secure guidelines can host larger groups provided they comply with the law.
Stricter rules apply to the north of England, including Bolton, where it has become illegal to meet anyone from outside your own household.
Other areas of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire also remain subject to tighter rules than most of the rest of the country including not meeting people from other households indoors.
On Tuesday, the UK reported 30 new coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, government figures reveal. It is the highest number of deaths recorded since July 29.
News of the deaths came amid a continuing surge in coronavirus cases, with 2,420 new infections recorded on Tuesday for England, Scotland and Wales.
On Monday, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the UK reached 2,948, the second day in a row it was just below the 3,000-mark.
Sunday’s tally of 2,988 new cases was the highest daily figure since 22 May.
In response to the rising cases, the government plans to reduce the maximum figure for gatherings in private homes, Sky News reported.
On Tuesday, housing minister Robert Jenrick said it was essential that people followed the government guidelines if they wanted to avoid the need for further restrictions.
“The coronavirus is still with us so we all need to take great care. There is a concerning rise in cases and it reminds us that we have to keep following the guidance,” he told Sky News.
“Although we are encouraged to return to the workplace to support jobs, cafes and so on, we need to do so responsibly.
Watch the video below
“As we approach the autumn and winter there is going to be even more responsibility on all of us to keep following the guidelines.
“Nobody wants to see a return to full national restrictions of the kind we had earlier this year.”
On Monday, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said the UK could face “a bumpy ride over the next few months” after a “big change” in infections.
He said the public had “relaxed too much” over the summer and described the rising number of cases as a “great concern”.
He said: “If we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.”
And Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the UK is in a “risky period” and that coronavirus cases are “increasing exponentially”.
Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter