Can I gather with other people? / Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Can I gather with other people?

This information was correct as of 14 September 2020, but is subject to possible changes.

Unless otherwise stated, this page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

Can I gather with other people?

Yes. On 14 September 2020, the Government introduced the ‘rule of six’. This means that in most circumstances, you cannot gather in a group of more than six people, no matter whether you are indoors or outdoors, in a private home or in some other location. This rule includes children.

There are some exceptions to these rules – meaning that groups of more than six people are allowed in the following circumstances:

Exceptions to the rules on gatherings

You are allowed to gather in groups of more than six people if:

  • all the people in the gathering are from the same household or support bubble
  • the gathering takes place at premises or part of premises which are operated by a business, a charity, a public body or certain other types of institution, and
    • you attend the gathering alone OR
    • you attend the gathering in a group of six people or less, or in a group which consists only of members of your household or your support bubble where applicable. These are known as ‘qualifying groups’. You are not allowed to move between qualifying groups or to mingle with any person at the gathering who is not from your qualifying group.
  • the gathering takes place in a public outdoor place, and
    • has been organised by a business, a charity, a public body, a political body or certain other types of institution,
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out,
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance and
    • you attend the gathering alone or as a member of a qualifying group
  • you are an elite athlete, the coach of an elite athlete, or the parent of an elite athlete (if the athlete is under the age of 18), and the gathering is necessary for training or competition
  • the gathering is reasonably necessary
    • for work purposes, or for voluntary or charitable services
    • for the purposes of education or training
    • for the purposes of childcare provided by a person registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006, or as part of supervised activities provided for children,
    • to provide emergency assistance
    • to enable one or more persons in the gathering to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
    • to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
    • to continue existing arrangements for contact between parents and children where children do not live in the same household as their parents or one of their parents
  • you are fulfilling a legal obligation or to participate in legal proceedings
  • the gathering is of a support group
  • the gathering is for the purposes of a marriage or civil partnership, and
    • it takes place on religious premises or other premises approved by law for marriages and civil partnerships
    • there are no more than 30 people at the gathering
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out, and
    • the manager has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance
  • the gathering is a significant event gathering of no more than 30 people which takes place at premises or part of premises which are operated by a business, a charity, a public body or certain other types of institution or in a public outdoor space, and
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out, and
    • the manager or gathering organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance
  • the gathering is a wedding or civil partnership reception of no more than 30 people which takes place anywhere other than a private home, and
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out, and
    • the manager has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance
  • the gathering is for the purposes of protest, and
    • has been organised by a business, a charity, a public body, a political body or certain other types of institution,
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out, and
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance
  • you are taking part in a sports gathering
  • the gathering takes place in criminal justice accommodation
  • the gathering is for the purposes of an outdoor physical activity for which a licence is required and
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out, and
    • the gathering organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance
  • you are attending a person giving birth at their request.

If you gather in a group of more than six people in any other circumstances, this will be a criminal offence.

It is also a criminal offence to attend a gathering of more than six people indoors which would meet the definition of a rave (see section 63(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) if it took place on land in the open air.

The exceptions to the ‘rule of six’ are complex, and we have provided responses to some frequently asked questions below. We aim to add further guidance soon. In the meantime, you can find more details on the Government’s FAQs page and its social distancing guidance.

The government guidance also advises that you should socially distance from anyone who is not from your household or support bubble at all times, even inside people’s homes. This includes trying to stay at least 2 metres away from people you don’t live with, avoiding physical contact, being close and face-to-face, and shouting or singing close to them.

This is only guidance and not law. The police cannot enforce these rules and if you break them you will not commit a criminal offence.

What are the rules on organising a gathering?

From 28 August 2020, it is a criminal offence to organise a gathering of more than 30 people which takes place indoors but which would meet the definition of a rave (see section 63(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) if it took place on land in the open air.

It is also a criminal offence to organise a gathering of more than 30 people in a private home or in a public outdoor space which is not operated by a business, a charity, a public body or certain other types of institution, unless an exception applies.

The exceptions to this rule are the same as the exceptions for attending gatherings, as set out above.

The penalties for these offences are much higher than the penalties for attending a gathering illegally; if you commit one of these offences, a fine of £10,000 can be imposed.

What counts as a gathering?

A ‘gathering’ is defined in the regulations as two or more people being present in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any activity with each other. This is a very broad definition which is likely to cover any reason for meeting with another person unless this is genuinely accidental.

What is a ‘support bubble’?

A “support bubble” also known as a “linked household”, is where two households, which meet certain conditions, are allowed to link up. This means that your household and your linked household are treated as one household for the purposes of the rules on how many people should meet up at any given time.

Can I form a support bubble?

You can only form a support bubble with another household if one of the households is a single adult household, or a single adult with one or more children who were under the age of 18 on 12th June 2020.

Single adult households, or single adult and child households, can form a support bubble with one other household made up of any number of people.

For example, a single mother and her child who live together can form a support bubble together with a household where there are two parents and five children living.

All adults in both households must agree to forming the bubble and neither household can be linked to another household.

Can I change my support bubble?

No. Once you decide which household you wish to link with, neither of the households can change.

If your households are linked but for some reason you decide to stop linking, you can’t form a support bubble with a new household.

What is a public outdoor place?

A public outdoor place is any outdoor place that the public can access or are allowed to access, whether by paying for entry or not. It includes public gardens, open countryside and public roads. The full definition is set out in the regulations.

Can I go to a pub or restaurant with my family or friends?

Yes. You can meet up and socialise in a group of up to six people (from any number of households). The six-person limit includes children.

If your household consists of six or more people, then you can go out and socialise together, but you can’t meet with additional people or households, unless you have formed a support bubble with them. Where you have formed a support bubble, the bubble can socialise together regardless of the number of people in it.

The rules allow for more than six people to be present in venues such as pubs, restaurants and shops, as long as people remain in what are known as ‘qualifying groups’. This covers groups of six people or fewer, and groups of more than six people where they are all from one household or support bubble. However, this exception won’t apply if you join another group or mingle with any other person outside of your qualifying group whilst you’re at the venue.

The Government has published guidance on meeting people from outside your household.

Can I still play sport or do other physical activity in groups?

Yes. There are exceptions in the rules for ‘sports gatherings’ and ‘relevant outdoor activities’ which means that groups of more than six people can take part in these activities as long as certain conditions are met.

‘Sports gatherings’ must be organised by a business, a charity, a public body or certain other types of institution and they must be held at a premises operated by one of these types of institution (for example, a sports club) or anywhere else which is outdoors. The organiser must carry out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and must take all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

‘Relevant outdoor activities’ are physical activities which are held outdoors and where either the organiser of the activity or the participants need some form of licence or permit for the activity (including a licence to use certain equipment). Again, the organiser must carry out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and must take all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

If you are taking part in any kind of sporting or physical activity that does not meet these requirements, then you must do so in groups of six people or fewer.

There is a specific exception in the rules for elite sportspeople.

Government guidance further states that you should only be playing team sports where the relevant governing body has published guidance on how to do so safely. More information including a list of relevant sports can be found on the Government’s FAQs page.

What is a ‘support group’?

There is an exception in the rules for ‘support groups’ which meet the following conditions, meaning that more than six people can attend and take part.

The support group must be organised by a business, a charity, a public body or certain other types of institution, with the purpose of providing mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. The rules give a non-exhaustive list of examples which include providing support:

  • to victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
  • to those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
  • to new and expectant parents
  • to those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness, disability or terminal condition or who are vulnerable
  • to those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
  • to those who have suffered bereavement.

Support groups which don’t meet these conditions can still run with more than six people in total as long as social interaction and shared activity is limited to groups of six. See the Government’s FAQs for more information.

What is a ‘significant event gathering’?

The rules define a significant event gathering as a gathering for the purposes of a ceremony, rite or ritual to celebrate a significant milestone in a person’s life or to mark a person’s death, according to that person’s religion or belief. Government guidance notes that this covers ceremonies such as funerals, christenings and bar/batmitzvahs. It does not cover birthdays.

The rules allow for significant event gatherings of up to 30 people provided they are held at premises or part of a premises operated by a business, a charity, a public body or certain other types of institution, or in a public outdoor space. The organiser of the gathering must have carried out a risk assessment to ensure that the gathering is COVID-19 secure.

The 30-person limit only applies to the ceremonies themselves, and not to receptions for these events. The six-person limit applies to any reception.

If you need further advice, you should contact a criminal law solicitor.

Get help to find a solicitor.

You can also contact us for further advice on our Get Advice page.

Read our next page on what the police can do.

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