We've all been under coronavirus lockdown restrictions and separated from friends and family for a number of weeks. As a result many of us are counting down the days until we can have increased social contact. On 22 February the Government laid out its roadmap for the easing of current restrictions and stipulated that 'the rule of six' is due to return allowing outdoor gatherings to recommence.

What is permitted and from when?

Provided the latest data supports that vaccines are being sufficiently deployed and coronavirus cases are on a downward trend, the rule of six is set to be reintroduced in England from Monday 29 March. This will allow people to meet outside, including in private gardens, either in groups of up to six or with one other household. When meeting people from different households, social distancing rules will still need to be observed. Meeting indoors will remain forbidden at this stage.

It appears to have been recognised that one size doesn't fit all and by having a two-pronged approach, more flexibility should be afforded to both families and individuals. The rule of six will allow six individuals from up to six different households to socialise at any given time. Permitting two separate households to meet enables the number of six to be exceeded, for example two families of four. Those eligible to form support bubbles can still do so and will continue to be counted as part of that same household.

Does the rule of six include children?

Yes. On the current Government guidance children are not listed as an exception to the rule.

Are there any exemptions?

The rule of six only applies to outdoor social settings such as meeting friends in a park or private garden. It does not impact on education or workplaces. Separate guidance applies to other exemptions such as funerals, childcare and support bubbles.

What if I breach the rules?

If you meet in a larger group than permitted this will be deemed unlawful. The police have been given powers to disperse any such unlawful gatherings and issue fixed penalty notices. For a first offence you can be given a fixed penalty notice of £200 (lowered to £100 if paid within 14 days). For a second offence £400 can be imposed, then for each subsequent offence the fixed penalty notice can double up to a maximum of £6,400.

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