COVID-19: the ‘Rule of Six’

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Yet further regulations have come into force from midnight on Monday 14 September – intended to tighten restrictions on gatherings to reduce public health risks. (They were published less than an hour before they came into force.)

This intended change was announced last week by the Government and is already referred to as ‘the Rule of Six’. There are now countless detailed regulations. It is of little surprise that there is much public misunderstanding of them when they change so quickly and are not easy to navigate.

The basic rule

In short, no person may participate in a gathering that consists of more than six people (outdoors or indoors) unless an exemption applies.

NB this is for England – other regulations apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Ireland.

So, it affects the number of people who can be in gatherings – not what premises can be open or the numbers of persons within them. The net effect of this is that any number of persons can be within, say, a pub but your own gathering or group or bubble cannot exceed a maximum of six persons. How, in reality, this will be policed and enforced remains to be seen. No doubt larger (illegal) gatherings may be more easily targeted. It is the intention of the Government to introduce changes so there will be penalties for businesses that do not comply, imminently.


There are various exemptions:

1. Households

All the people in a gathering are:

  1. from the same household, or
  2. are members of two households that are ‘linked households’ in relation to each other.

So, you can have six persons from multiple households at a gathering at, say, your home but you cannot exceed six persons unless they all come from the same or linked households.

So, what is a linked household?

Where a household comprises one adult, or one adult and one or more persons who were under the age of 18 on 12 June 2020 this is called “the first household”.

The adult may choose to be linked with one other household – called “the second household”.

The link is made if neither the first household nor the second household is linked with any other household and all the adult members of the second household agree.

NB There is no limit on the number of adults or children that may be in the second household.

2. Exempt gatherings which take place:
  • on or at premises (or part of premises), other than a private dwelling, which are operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body OR
  • in a public outdoor space (other than the premises above) the gathering has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body,

and….. the person concerned participates in the gathering alone or as a member of a ‘qualifying group’, So, you can have many different individuals or comprising groups of max six persons.

What is a qualifying group?

It means a group of persons who took part in a gathering that consist of no more than six persons OR consists only of persons of the same household or members of two linked households. A person cannot ‘flip’ between qualifying groups whilst involved in a gathering.

3. Other exemptions

Where the gathering is ‘reasonably necessary’:

  • for work purposes
  • for the provision of voluntary or charitable services
  • for education or training
  • to provide childcare or to supervise activities for children
  • to provide emergency assistance
  • to enable the avoidance of injury or escape from the risk of harm
  • to provide care to or assistance to a vulnerable person
  • to facilitate access to and contact between parents and children where they do not live in the same household.

Other exemptions include:

  • to fulfil a legal obligation; (e.g.jury service)
  • where the gathering is a support group
  • for gatherings of up to 30 persons for marriage or civil partnership
  • for gatherings for a significant event
  • for an elite sportsperson, their coach (or where the elite sportsperson is a child, their parent) and the gathering is necessary for a competition or training.

An interesting example of the net effect of the regulations is in the area of sport. You can play sport as a group of more than six persons with those you live with but not if you don’t live with them. However, if the sport is organised sport (whether indoors or outdoors) there is not a limit, so long as the governing body of the sport in question has published safety guidance.

Source: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020.

We Can Help You

We will continue to keep you updated in this ever-changing landscape.

Please contact Tim Ridyard on 07484 924834 or email for individual advice for your business.

Alternatively, if you or your business require advice or need assistance for any regulatory or road transport matters, please get in touch with our specialist Regulatory and Road Transport team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0778.

This information is correct at 12pm on 14 September 2020.


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