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The government has made public gatherings of more than 30 people illegal for the first time ahead of a further lifting of coronavirus restrictions this weekend.
Downing Street said the new coronavirus regulations, which take effect on 4 July, will put a limit on gatherings at home and in outdoor spaces that are not deemed COVID-19 secure.
Health protection regulations were signed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Friday morning and and were published later in the afternoon.
Police will be given powers to enforce the new cap on gatherings. However pubs and restaurants with a big indoor capacity will be exempt from the new cap on social gatherings.
The news comes ahead of the easing of lockdown restrictions as pubs prepare to reopen from Saturday - which was originally slated for just after midnight.
But hours later the government amended the legislation to halt pubs from reopening until 6am on Saturday morning.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “What they do is put in place the 30-person limit on gatherings in private dwellings and outdoor spaces where not in a COVID 19-secure environment.
“The regulations also keep in place a list of premises that must remain closed and that includes nightclubs, nail bars and salons, indoor play areas, gyms, conference centres and exhibition halls.
“Those regulations mostly come into force at 12.01am on Saturday 4 July. The reopening of pubs and bars specifically comes into force at 6am. That would just be in the event anybody would attempt to try to open at midnight.”
The two-household rule for indoor or outdoor meetings will remain in place, but Downing Street said a 30-person limit would be put in the legislation to prevent mass gatherings.
“The reason for setting the figure for 30 is we do have to put a number into law and that is to provide police with the powers that they need to break up a rave or some other large gathering which is clearly irresponsible and in breach of the social distancing rules,” the PM’s spokesman added.
Legal commentators have criticised the process after the law was published just hours before coming into force with no debate over the change in legislation.
Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner tweeted: “It is utterly ridiculous and irresponsible that such complex new criminal laws are released by Coronavirus Regulationcadabra hours before they come into force for the whole of England, tens of millions of people.”
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