Politics

Coronavirus legal limit on people meeting indoors 'set to be cut within days'



The legal limit on people meeting indoors in England could be cut within days after a spike of coronavirus cases.

Reports today say the government will reduce the legal limit on more than than 30 people gathering in one place.

Current guidance says people in England must not meet more than one other household indoors – either in a private home, or in a restaurant or pub.

But that’s not a legal cap. The law only bans meetings of more than 30 people, indoors or outdoors.

According to Sky News and ITV’s political editors, that legal cap of 30 people will now be reduced.

A government source told the Mirror no final decisions had been taken but did not deny the move was being considered.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will give a statement to Parliament at 1.30pm, but sources suggested any change would not be announced today.

Cabinet ministers were meeting this morning. Reports suggest they were considering the first national change to restrictions in months.

Sources told Sky News there will be a “toughening up” of the rules.

Currently the guidance says meetings should be limited to two households indoors.

Outdoors, meetings should be limited to either two households or six people – whichever is bigger.

This applies to most of England, but some areas have stricter local rules due to local outbreaks.

It comes after Mr Hancock pleaded with youngsters not to “kill your gran” after a surge in cases among more affluent people aged 17 to 21.

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Some 2,948 UK tests came back positive in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday – adding to 2,988 reported on Sunday.

Those are the largest figures since May and a major leap.

Mr Hancock warned young people: “Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on.

“And you can pass it on before you’ve had any symptoms at all.”

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said the British public had “relaxed too much” over the summer.

The deputy chief medical officer for England issued the warning as Caerphilly in south Wales prepared to be placed under local lockdown from tonight.

In an interview with journalists, Prof Van-Tam said: “This is a big change. It’s now consistent over two days and it’s of great concern at this point.

“We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘oh well it’s gone away’ – this hasn’t gone away.

“And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point  we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.”

Prof Andrew Hayward, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the latest increase in coronavirus cases is “very worrying”.

He said scientists are monitoring the data closely for signs of wider community transmission of the disease.

“Generally it is local outbreaks, but there is also very worrying increases in cases, particularly over the last few days,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

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“That is what we are really keeping a close eye on – the extent to which it moves away from these local outbreaks to broader community transmission.

“What we saw in the last few days from this surveillance data was this worrying increase in cases which, as we know from the first wave of the pandemic, can potentially get out of hand if we don’t be very serious about the control measures.”

SAGE member Prof John Edmunds suggested family Christmases were at risk as cases are “increasing exponentially”.

He told ITV News the UK has entered “a risky period” with the R number – the number of people infected by each Covid carrier – above one.

He said: “I didn’t want us to relax measures so much that we couldn’t open the schools safely without it tipping the reproduction number significantly above one.

“And we are already above one and we’ve opened schools.

“The epidemic continues to increase and then we have Christmas. And that is very difficult. What is Christmas? Well it’s meeting with your family very close. Restaurants and pubs and stuff like that. And it’s all high risk. And it’s all indoors. Indoors makes a difference.”

This breaking news story is being updated.





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