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Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the UK "we must act" as he announced a raft of stronger social distancing measures centred around "the rule of six" at Downing Street on Wednesday.
That means that, indoors or outdoors, it will be illegal to gather in groups of more than six from Monday in England.
The PM said: "I know that over time the rules have become quite complicated and confusing. We have spoken to police officers about what they need and we have listened to the feedback."
He added that the government was now "simplifying and strengthening" social distancing rules in a bid to make enforcing them easier.
"I'm sorry that we must take this step but as your Prime Minister I must do everything I can to stop the virus and save lives," the PM added.
He went on to stress: "These measures are not another national lockdown, the whole point of them is to avoid a second national lockdown", and pointed out schools
The Downing Street press conference began with a run-down of the latest coronavirus data from Prof Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, who outlined that the UK was currently on the same trajectory as France and Spain, who are now in the midst of a second wave.
But he also pointed out that Belgium took "decisive action" as infection levels began to rise again and cut off the worst of a second wave.
"If you act rapidly and decisively there is a reasonable chance or a god chance of bringin rates back down and under control," he added.
It had already been revealed by Downing Street late on Tuesday night that social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday.
That new limit will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.
But gatherings of more than six people will be allowed where the household or support bubble is larger than six, or where the gathering is for work or education purposes.
Exemptions will also apply for weddings, funerals and organised team sports in a Covid-secure way.
Speaking to the nation from the press conference, Boris went on: "We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact – making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.
"It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others, and getting a test if you have symptoms."
On Tuesday night Downing Street said chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and the Government had jointly agreed that urgent action was needed after the rise in coronavirus cases.
Some 2,420 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were recorded in Britain as of 9am on Tuesday, following the 2,988 reported in the UK on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May.
- Boris Johnson
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