COVID 'rule of six' to carry on as MPs give law overwhelming backing

·3-min read
People wearing protective face masks looks for a seat to eat their lunch in The Old Truman Brewery's markets in east London on September 26, 2020, as Londoners live with new restrictions, introduced to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. - Britain has tightened restrictions to stem a surge of coronavirus cases, ordering pubs to close early and advising people to go back to working from home to prevent a second national lockdown. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
The government's 'rule of six' has been continued, meaning most social gatherings of more than six people will remain illegal in England. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)
  • MPs overwhelmingly vote to continue “rule of six”, which bans most social gatherings of more than six people in England

  • Government says “we must do whatever it takes to keep coronavirus under control”

  • But some Tory backbenchers remain unhappy, with one calling for Downing Street to consider “rule of eight”

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

MPs have voted to continue the coronavirus “rule of six”, meaning most social gatherings of more than six people will remain illegal in England.

The law, which was originally introduced on 14 September after a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases, eased through a House of Commons vote on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson had been facing a rebellion from Conservative backbenchers unhappy at the continuation of restrictions, but this was seen off.

The government comfortably won the vote by 287 to 17.

Making the government’s case in the Commons on Tuesday, minister Helen Whately said: “I recognise people have had to make significant sacrifices to suppress the first wave and these restrictions are not measures any government would want to introduce.

“But the threat of the virus very much remains. With winter approaching, we must do whatever it takes to keep it under control and protect the NHS so it can, in turn, look after us.”

Shadow minister Justin Madders, speaking for Labour, said the party wants the government to succeed in fighting the virus, but criticised it for needing to impose the rule of six in the first place.

He said: “The rise in infections we are seeing was not inevitable. These restrictions we are debating today were not inevitable. The government cannot continue lurching from crisis to crisis.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon rules out 'circuit breaker' national lockdown in Scotland

“These regulations might not have been necessary if the government had fixed Test and Trace when the sun was shining. But they wasted the summer. Let’s hope the price for that is not a very bitter winter.”

Influential Tory MP Sir Graham Brady, who leads the powerful “1922 committee” of backbenchers, spoke out against Downing Street as he said: “For the state to direct people whether or when they can see their families in their own homes or gardens is an extreme intervention.”

He called for the government to prove the rule of six works and “reassure people it will be temporary”, as well as asking for a “rule of eight” to be considered.

However, the government comfortably won the vote, with a majority of 270 backing the rule of six.

The regulations were already in force, with the motion offering a retrospective vote on it.

The continuation of the rule of six came after an analysis by PA showed the rate of COVID-19 infections across the UK almost doubled in a week.

The UK-wide seven-day rate now stands at 125.7 cases per 100,000 people, up from 63.8 per 100,000 a week ago.

Meanwhile, there were 14,542 lab-confirmed cases of COVID in the UK recorded on Tuesday. This was treble the number – 4,926 – recorded a fortnight ago on 22 September.

Watch: People in England face £10,000 fines for not self-isolating

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