‘Rule of Six’ begins today amid fears 29C temperatures will see people break law

The new coronavirus "rule of six" has come into force in England today, Monday, with officials worrying scorching temperatures will encourage rule breakers.

Any social gatherings of more than six people will break the law from today, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings and follows a rapid increase in the number of daily positive cases.

Regulations enabling the enforcement of the rule were published late on Sunday night, around 30 minutes before they came into effect.

More than 3,000 Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK for the third day in a row on Sunday – the first time since May that cases were above 3,000 on three consecutive days.

The new law comes amid concerns about an increase in cases in care homes and growing criticism of the NHS Test and Trace system.

Aside from limited exemptions including work and education, police will be able to disperse gatherings of more than six people and issue fines ranging from £100 to £3,200.

Meanwhile officials fear the warm and sunny weather forecast for Monday will encourage people to gather in groups in outdoor spaces. 

Temperatures as high as 29C (84F) are expected in some parts on Monday, according to the Met Office.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Metropolitan Police's response to coronavirus, said officers will be deployed in every borough to patrol public spaces and respond swiftly to incidents where groups gather in large numbers.

He said: "Coronavirus has had an enormous impact on London and the life of Londoners and my thoughts are with all those who have battled the virus or who have lost loved ones.

"Our city has made huge sacrifices since the start of lockdown in March and officers across the Met have been working around the clock to keep London safe and support our heroic health colleagues.

"Throughout this period, the vast majority of Londoners have complied with the regulations. Today's changes are an important step to reduce the spread of the virus and I would urge everyone to take them seriously and comply.

"We will be deploying resources across the capital to engage with groups of more than six to highlight the risks and regulations. Where necessary, officers will enforce the regulations. We will be working closely with the London boroughs and their enforcement teams, and doing all we can to persuade Londoners to take the threat seriously.

"Where people just won't listen, and are putting everyone at risk, we absolutely will take enforcement action.

"It is very clear that we cannot control the spread of the virus through enforcement alone, and we need Londoners to work with us. Therefore, please continue to act responsibly – maintain social distancing, respect the new regulations and guidance, and help keep yourself, your friends and family safe."

Responding to the changes in the coronavirus regulations, the Metropolitan Police said it will deploy resources across the capital to enforce the tighter restrictions on social gatherings.

"Coronavirus remains a real and deadly threat and officers will be deployed in every borough to help keep people safe. They will patrol public spaces and will also respond swiftly to incidents where groups gather in large numbers," the force said.

"Officers will continue to adopt the 'four E's' approach by seeking to engage, explain and encourage people to act responsibly and comply with these changes. Where groups fail to comply with police, officers have the powers to issue fixed penalty notices of £100, which doubles for further offences, up to a maximum of £3,200."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the recent rise in cases "makes it clear that more needs to be done to stop the spread of this disease".

The rule applies across England and replaces the existing ban on participating in gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors.

Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council Martin Hewitt has urged the public to "stick to the limits".

He said: "Preventing the spread of coronavirus is a shared effort and police are playing our part alongside Government, businesses, hospitality owners, local authorities and others.

"Officers are in their communities following our approach to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules. We will issue fines when people refuse to comply.

"The demands on the police service are now at similar levels to before the pandemic, which makes it crucially important that we all take personal responsibility, stick to the limits and prevent the spread of this deadly virus."

Meanwhile, a survey suggests a second peak is the number one concern among medics who want to avoid a return to the "horror and tragedy" of the pandemic's early days.

The British Medical Association (BMA) poll found that 86% of more than 8,000 doctors and medical students in England said that a second peak was likely or very likely in the next six months.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman, said: "With daily cases still alarmingly high, and winter just around the corner, we are at a critical crossroads in the fight against this deadly virus.

"All efforts must be made to avoid a repeat of the horror and tragedy we all experienced earlier this year."

The UK will enjoy one last gasp of summer with temperatures even reaching as high as 31C later in the week in some places.

A tropical plume of air will send the mercury sky-rocketing before temperatures turn cooler.

The Met Office has predicted September will be one of the warmest on record after a mixed-bag August.

Sunday will be dry and sunny for most in England and Wales with temperatures in southern England roughly 20C.

Monday will see the mercury start to climb rapidly with highs of 29C caused by a “tropical continental air pushing up from a southerly direction in combination with light winds," predicts Met Office forecaster Bonnie Diamond.

The hot weather is set to continue on Tuesday and Wednesday, with highs of 28C or 29C across most of southern England, including London.

Northern England and Wales will be cooler, but will remain warm and dry with average temperatures of 22C.

Met Office forecaster Bonnie Diamond said: "It definitely feels like one last blast of summer even though we are, meteorologically speaking, in autumn."

The Government said that as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 3,330 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Tough new Covid-19 lockdown measures were announced for parts of the UK on Friday as cases continued to rise and as the R number – the reproduction number of coronavirus transmission – climbed above one.

According to Government advisers, the last time R was above one was in early March.

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