Coronavirus / Step 3 - Can I gather with other people?

Coronavirus Step 3 – Can I gather with other people?

This information was correct as of 17 May 2021 but is subject to possible changes.

This page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

The coronavirus rules have changed several times in recent months. Here is a brief timeline of the most recent changes:

  • On 29 March 2021, the previous system of Tier rules was repealed and replaced with the Step rules, which set out a step-by-step process for coming out of lockdown in England.  From 29 March 2021, the Step 1 rules applied to every area in England.
  • On 12 April 2021, the Step 1 rules were disapplied from every area in England, and the Step 2 rules were applied to every area in England instead.
  • On 17 May 2021, the Step 2 rules were disapplied from every area in England, and the Step 3 rules were applied to every area in England instead.

RESTRICTIONS ON GATHERINGS IN STEP 3 (FROM 17 May 2021)

The Step 3 rules ban indoor gatherings of more than six people, and outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people in most circumstances. There are a number of exceptions to these rules.

INDOOR GATHERINGS

The rules say that you can gather in a group of up to six people indoors. You can only exceed this number if certain exceptions apply. This includes gatherings within people’s homes.

OUTDOOR GATHERINGS

The rules say that you are allowed to gather outdoors in groups of up to 30. This includes in a public outdoor place, in the garden of someone’s home or on other private property. There is no limit on the number of households those 30 people can be from. Gatherings of more than 30 people outside are not allowed unless certain exceptions apply.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Government social distancing guidance recommends you stay two metres apart from anyone who isn’t from your household or your support bubble.

It is recommended that you follow this advice for the safety of yourselves and others. However, it isn’t a specific criminal offence if you don’t follow this advice.

Exceptions to the rules on gatherings

You are allowed to gather in larger groups than described above if the gathering falls into one of the exceptions provided by law, which include those below:

General exceptions relating to gatherings

Permitted organised gatherings

  • The gathering takes place on premises (or part of a premises) operated by a business, a charity, a public body, a political body, or benevolent or philanthropic institution (and not on or at a private home), or
  • 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 benevolent or philanthropic institution
  • the organiser or premises manager has
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • 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 can only attend this type of gathering alone or as a member of a qualifying group.

Education and training

The gathering is reasonably necessary for the purposes of:

  • early years provision
  • educational activities of a school
  • a course of study or essential life skills training provided by a 16 to 19 Academy, a further education provider or a higher education provider
  • activities relating to residing at a school, a 16 to 19 Academy or a further education provider
  • provision specified in an education, health and care plan (EHC plan)
  • the suitable education of a child otherwise than by regular attendance at school (arranged by a parent, local authority or the proprietor of a school in accordance with standards set down in law)
  • activities provided by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body for the purposes of obtaining a regulated qualification or meeting the entry requirements of an educational institution
  • preparing for work through a work experience placement or work preparation training
  • applying for and obtaining work
  • meeting a requirement for a particular area of work
  • professional training that is working towards an external accreditation recognised by a professional body
  • exams and assessments carried out in connection with any of the matters mentioned in the bullet points above.

Gatherings necessary for certain purposes

The gathering is reasonably necessary:

  • for work purposes, or for voluntary or charitable services
  • to provide emergency assistance
  • to enable one or more persons in the gathering to avoid injury or illness to escape a risk of harm
  • to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
  • to help with the process of moving home.

Legal obligations and proceedings

  • You are fulfilling a legal obligation or taking part in legal proceedings (this includes attending court or satisfying your bail conditions).

Criminal justice accommodation

  • The gathering takes place in criminal justice or immigration detention accommodation.

Elite sports

  • You are an elite sportsperson or the coach of an elite sportsperson (or, in the case of an elite sportsperson who is a child, their parent), and the gathering is necessary for training or competition.

Other sports

  • The gathering is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body for the purposes of allowing persons who are not elite sportspersons to take part in any sport or other fitness activity
  • the organiser or premises manager has
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.
  • This exception does not permit spectators, including the parent of a child participating in the sport gathering.

Outdoor activities

  • You are taking part in a “relevant outdoor activity“, which is a physical outdoor activity for which a licence, permit or certificate issued by a public body must be held by the organiser or a person taking part in the activity
  • the organiser or premises manager has
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Children

The gathering is reasonably necessary for the purposes of:

  • arrangements for contact between parents and children where children do not live in the same household as their parents or one of their parents
  • arrangements for contact between siblings where they do not live in the same household, and one or more of them is in local authority care
  • facilitating a meeting between prospective adopters (and their household) and the child or children who may be placed with prospective adopters
  • social services placing children into care, whether on a temporary or permanent basis
  • later years childcare provision (for children aged five or over but under 18) or as part of supervised activities provided for children or people aged under 18 on 31 August 2020
  • for the purposes of informal childcare, for children aged 13 or under, provided by a member of a household to a member of their childcare bubble.

Childcare in ‘early years’ settings (including nurseries and childminders) is covered by the “Education” exceptions, above.

Students and vacation households

  • The gathering is reasonably necessary to enable a student, who is undertaking a higher education course on 29 March 2021, to:
    • move on one occasion from their student household to another household for the purposes of a vacation on or after 29 March 2021 but before 29 April 2021
    • return to their term time accommodation after the vacation described above, or any vacation which started before 29 March 2021 as allowed under the previous rules.

Picketing

  • The gathering is for the purposes of picketing which is carried out in accordance with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992
  • the organiser has:
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Protests

The gathering is for the purposes of protest and:

  • it has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body or a political body, and
    the organiser has:

    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Observing an election or referendum

  • The gathering is reasonably necessary for the purposes of observing voting, opening postal votes or counting votes in an election or referendum, where such observation is in accordance with the law which provides for the election or referendum.

Secretary of State’s direction

The gathering is permitted by a direction made by the Secretary of State under these regulations.

On the advice of the Chief Medical Officers, the Secretary of State can disapply the rules on gathering in relation to specified events and gatherings, for the purposes of a research programme to evidence the potential transmission of coronavirus in controlled environments.

 

Exceptions in relation to indoor gatherings only

Two households or support bubbles

  • All the people in the gathering are from no more than two households.
  • For these purposes, people in a support bubble are treated as one household.
  • A person who has been released on temporary licence is treated as a member of the household living at the address identified on the licence.

Support groups

  • The gathering is of a support group which takes place indoors somewhere other than a private home and includes no more than 15 people. It must also be reasonably necessary for members of the group to be physically present at the gathering. Children under the age of 5 do not count towards the 15-person limit.

Marriages and civil partnerships etc

  • The gathering is for the purposes of a legal marriage or civil partnership (or an alternative ceremony)

AND

  • consists of no more than 30 people
  • (if it is an alternative wedding ceremony) takes place at premises or part of premises (other than a private home) which are operated by a business, a public body or a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution
  • the organiser or premises manager has:
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

OR

  • The gathering is for the purposes of a legal marriage or civil partnership ceremony which is allowed to take place because one of the parties to the marriage or civil partnership is seriously ill and not expected to recover (or is for the purposes of an alternative wedding ceremony where one of the parties to the marriage is seriously ill and not expected to recover)

AND

  • the gathering takes place at a private home; at premises or part of premises which are operated by a business, a public body or a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution
  • the gathering consists of no more than 30 people
  • it is not reasonably practicable for the gathering to take place in accordance with the rules set out in the previous paragraph
  • the organiser or premises manager has:
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Wedding and civil partnership receptions

  • The gathering is for the purpose of a wedding reception, a reception following the formation of a civil partnership or a reception following the conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage
  • the gathering consists of no more than 30 people
  • the organiser or premises manager has:
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Funerals

  • The gathering is for the purposes of a funeral
  • consists of no more than 30 people
  • takes place at premises or part of premises, other than a private home, which are operated by a business, a public body or a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution
  • the organiser or premises manager has:
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Commemorative event following a person’s death

  • The gathering is for a commemorative event to celebrate the life of a person who has died (such as a wake, stone setting or ash scattering)
  • the gathering consists of no more than 30 people
  • the gathering takes place somewhere other than a private home
  • the organiser or premises manager has:
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Significant event celebration

  • The gathering is for the purpose of a ceremony, rite or ritual to mark or celebrate a significant milestone in a person’s life, according to their religion or belief (or lack of belief), such as an event to celebrate a rite of passage or entry into a particular faith (other than a birthday) or coming of age
  • Consists of no more than 30 people
  • takes place at premises or part of premises, other than a private home, which are operated by a business, a public body or a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution
  • the organiser or premises manager has:
    • carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
    • taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Parent and child groups

The gathering is of a parent and child group which:

  • consists of no more than 15 people
  • is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body for the benefit of children under the age of five.

Children under the age of 5 do not count towards the 15-person limit.

CAN I BE FINED FOR NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES ON GATHERINGS?

Yes. It is a criminal offence if you break the rules on gatherings without a reasonable excuse. There are different fines depending on the size of the gathering, and whether you attended or organised it.

For attending an unlawful gathering you may be fined £100 for your first offence (or £200 if you fail to pay the fine within 14 days of it being issued), with the amount of the fine doubling for each offence that is committed up to a maximum of £6,400.

If you commit a ‘large gathering offence’ where you gather in a group of more than 15 people in certain indoor locations, you may be fined £400 (or £800 if you fail to pay the fine within 14 days of it being issued). See here for further information.

If you organise or facilitate a gathering of more than 30 people, indoors or outdoors, the fine could be much larger, up to £10,000 (see below). This is subject to the same exceptions as above.

See our what can the police do and criminal penalties pages for more information.

WHAT COUNTS AS A GATHERING?

A ‘gathering’ has been defined in law 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 the meeting is genuinely accidental.

WHAT ARE THE RULES ON ORGANISING A GATHERING?

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 in the open air.

It is also a criminal offence to organise a gathering of more than 30 people in a private home, on a vessel or in a public outdoor place which is not operated by a business, a public body, a charity, benevolent or philanthropic institution, unless an exception applies.

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

One of the exceptions relates to “permitted organised gatherings”. This allows people to attend gatherings organised by specified types of bodies in specific locations. Similarly, organisers of these types of gatherings will not commit a criminal offence. However, this exception does not apply to the organisation of gatherings in a public outdoor place operated by a public body. Therefore, organising an event in such a place is still not allowed, unless it is covered by one of the other exceptions.

The penalties for these “organising” 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 and, if you do not pay the fine, you may be prosecuted for a criminal offence.

CAN I HAVE PEOPLE OVER TO MY GARDEN?

Yes. Under the Step 3 restrictions, you can have a gathering of up to 30 people in a private garden.

CAN I HAVE PEOPLE OVER TO MY HOUSE?

Yes. Under the Step 3 rules you can now have up to six people indoors in a private residence. For indoor gatherings such as this, you can have more than six people if all of the people gathering are from no more than two households. When considering the number of households, support bubbles are considered as one household. You can also gather indoors with members of your  childcare bubble, but only for the purposes of providing childcare.

CAN I MEET UP WITH FRIENDs OUTDOORS?

Yes. Under the Step 3 restrictions you can have a gathering of up to 30 people outdoors. This includes in a public outdoor place, as well as in private outdoor premises (although bear in mind there are still some restrictions on the premises that can be open). You can have more than 30 people if certain exceptions apply.

In addition, Step 3 has allowed more businesses to open, which includes bars, restaurants and cafés, as well as other outdoor activities. You can therefore meet with a group of up to 30 people in a restaurant’s or pub’s outdoor seating area, for example, or up to six people indoors.

See our “Which businesses are allowed to open” article for more information.

CAN I VISIT A RELATIVE OR FRIEND IN A CARE HOME?

Yes. As long as the gathering is of six people or fewer, there is no legal restriction on visiting care homes.

However, care providers themselves set their own visiting policies and make decisions about who can visit residents, when and how frequently, based on government guidance and advice from local authority directors of public health (DPHs).

The Government publishes guidance for care providers, which explains how they should make these decisions and communicate them to residents and families.

This guidance states that from 17 May care homes residents are allowed to have five names on their list of permitted regular visitors. However, only two will be allowed at any one time, or on any given day. These visitors should be tested using rapid lateral flow tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow all other infection control measures as guided by the care home.

In addition to their five named visitors, residents with higher care needs can also choose to nominate an essential care giver.

Care home residents are also allowed to go on low-risk outdoor trips without needing to isolate when they return. This includes trips to a park, a beach, educational settings or work.

Care homes can continue to offer visits to other friends or family members with arrangements such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows.

The guidance states that care home managers are best placed to decide how their care home can best enable visiting in line with this guidance and in a way that meets the needs of their residents both individually and collectively.

When making decisions about visiting, care homes must also take into account the significant vulnerability of most residents, as well as compliance with their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, as applicable.

If you need further advice, you should contact a 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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