‘Rule of Six’ explained for March 29 – and where there are exceptions

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Thanks to the government's roadmap, there are now clear, precise dates for when the misery of life in lockdown can end.

But it is worth remembering there are restrictions we must adhere to to ensure normality can be restored by that magic June 21 date.

The 'rule of six' will return as of March 29 as part of the government's plan to cautiously lift lockdown measures while trying desperately to avoid causing another spike in COVID-19 cases, triggering what would be a fourth national lockdown.

Boris Johnson's lockdown exit roadmap revealed that restrictions will start to be lifted as of March 8, when schoolchildren will return to the classroom.

The entire plan surrounding the lifting of measures is heavily dependant on four key steps. Each step is deliberately five weeks apart so that the impact of each measure being removed can be analysed.

The four key tests are to determine whether the vaccine rollout is going as planned, vaccines are continuing to bring down deaths and hospital admissions, cases aren't so high they will overwhelm NHS and new variants are not creating a big new risk.

What is the rule of six?

The rule of six coming into play on March 29 means family and friends from multiple households can reunite in groups of six outdoors, opening up the chance for things like picnics and barbecues.

The rule also allows for more than six people to meet up – as long as it's only two households.

This means two households, with four people each, will legally be able to meet up outdoors from March 29.

  • When can I meet friends and family? What new lockdown roadmap means for socialising

What is happening on March 29?

As well as being the date where up to six people from differing households can meet in an outdoor environment, March 29 could also see the return of some organised sport. Golf, tennis, club cricket, amateur rugby and grassroots football could all be allowed to restart should the data suggest the country is in a safe enough place to do so.

Currently, people are strongly advised to stay in their local area for exercise. But from March 29, this will be scrapped and while people will still be urged to minimise their travel, ultimately no distance limits will apply.

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The 'stay at home' messaging will also be scrapped for the first time in two months.

Why has the rule of six been introduced?

The rule of six was first implemented in the autumn of last year, after Boris Johnson told his Cabinet that ministers must ensure there was "no complacency" among the public following the rise in coronavirus infections.

Both England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance were in agreement urgent action was required following the number of positive cases rising drastically.

  • When will social distancing and the need to use face masks end?

Are there exceptions to the rule of six?

Support Bubbles – Households or support bubbles of more than six people are exempt from the new rules. This means you could go for a picnic with all the people in your support bubble, even if there are more than six of you.

Two households – Two households of any size will be allowed to meet up from March 29, meaning two families of four would be able to socialise in an outdoor location. It's only when there are three or more households present that the rule of six kicks in

Funerals – Funerals can go ahead with up to 30 people present, providing they are all socially distanced. However, only six people will be allowed at the wake.

  • Boris Johnson

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