Indoor Socialising Ban

  • Rule of One introduced.
  • General ban on meeting others at any indoor location.
  • New laws in effect from 30 September.

New laws came into effect across the North East on 30 September, making it illegal to meet anyone you don’t live with (or who you are not in a support bubble or linked household with) at any inside location.

Instead of the ‘Rule of Six’, introduced by the Government a fortnight ago, it is now the ‘Rule Of One’ for socialising indoors.

There is a long list of exceptions, but the general rule is you cannot mix indoors with people you don’t live with, unless it’s at a school or your workplace.

The new law applies to everyone, including children, and (unless exceptions apply) forbids North East residents from meeting up indoors with anyone else, anywhere, even abroad. Those visiting our region will also be banned from meeting people outside their own household or support bubble at indoor venues.

Before these changes, it had been possible to meet up to five others indoors at pubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, dessert diners, cafes, gaming zones, casinos, hostels, gyms, health centres, campsites or any other enclosed or ‘substantially enclosed’ location (apart from nightclubs and ‘sexual entertainment venues’, which remain shut). Now, those 18 or over who attend these places and meet with others can be forcibly dispersed and fined £200 for a first offence (reduced to £100 if paid in 14 days). Fines double for any subsequent offences.

These venues can remain open to the public, but unless it is an allowed exception, the rule of one must be observed, with heavy fines for business owners who allow customers to breach the rules. Customers must attend on their own and stay on their own. They must not be ‘in the same place’ as anyone else to socialise or ‘undertake any other activity with each other’.

There are a large number of exceptions to the rules.

Those normally involved in providing ‘necessary’ care for children under 14 or for vulnerable adults were allowed to do so again from last week. This might be childcare provided to allow a parent to go to work or to allow them to attend to other responsibilities.

Caring arrangements must have already been established before 21 September to qualify for this exemption. The rules do not allow for people to have children staying with others, for parties or ‘play dates’. People are allowed to care for children or vulnerable adults from one household only. Relatives and friends you don’t normally live with, who are not part of usual caring arrangements will not be allowed to meet to see the children. There is special provision to allow existing parent/child access arrangements.

Those in support bubbles or ‘linked households’ (where a single adult household ‘links’ with one other household and effectively forms an extended family) can continue to meet each other freely.

Meetings for work purposes or to provide volunteer or charitable services will be allowed where it is ‘necessary’, as will meeting up for training or education purposes. Meetings must take place in Covid-secure environments and follow social-distancing guidelines. Registered tradespeople will be allowed to work inside homes and other premises, provided they follow Covid guidance on working safely.

It will be possible to meet indoors for a range of emergency situations, for some support groups and ‘to facilitate’ a house move (including moving to university). It will also be possible for close relatives, friends, or members of the same household to visit people in hospitals, hospices and care homes.

Permitted gatherings will be allowed. These include for births, marriage and deaths, which are subject to strict limits on how many can attend, social distancing measures and Covid safety measures. Gatherings at premises (apart from private homes) operated by businesses, charities and public bodies will also be permitted, but must follow strict rules about how they are organised. Gyms and fitness studios can continue to operate but group activity must be limited to six people and in a Covid-secure setting. Public protest gatherings are allowed, subject to precautions being taken.

Outdoor areas at pubs, restaurants, cafes etc are exempt from the new rules and people will be allowed to meet in a socially distanced way, in groups of no more than six.

Despite there being no law changes which prevent people from meeting each other in outdoor settings (in groups of no more than six), official advice is not to. Government Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament last week that “people should not socialise outside their household … that is the approach that people should take.”

Check out our earlier story to find out more about current Covid-19 rules in the North East.

GH 30 September 2020