Rule of six: new guidelines for outdoor gatherings in England explained - and do children and babies count?

The ‘rule of six’ is now allowed outdoors in England

Up to six people in England are now able to meet in outdoor spaces - including in private gardens - as part of the ‘rule of six’.

But what is the rule of six, who is included in it and when could people be allowed to meet indoors?

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The rule of six allows up to six people from different households to meet up (Photo: Shutterstock)

What is the rule of six?

The rule of six allows up to six people from different households to meet up.

The rule was first implemented back in September last year in order to prohibit social gatherings of more than six people, but hasn’t been used during the second and third lockdowns.

However, the rule of six is now in place again outdoors, meaning up to six people from different households can meet in outdoor spaces, including in private gardens, but social distancing still needs to be adhered to.

Do babies and children count in the rule of six?

In England, children of any age are included in the count, which means if six adults met and one of them had a baby or child with them, this would be against the rules.

However, the other grouping allowed is that of two different households. Instead of the rule of six, two households of any size are able to meet up outside, even if this means there are more than six people present in total.

Both the rule of six or two households meeting up is currently only allowed outside, with indoor gatherings expected to be allowed from 17 May at the earliest, as part of step 3 the Government's roadmap out of lockdown.

Why are people only able to meet outdoors?

According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), research shows that the risk of infection from Covid-19 is significantly lower in fresh air than indoors due to a number of reasons.

This includes factors such the virus dispersing more easily when outside in fresh air and there being more room to distance, which then reduces the risk of breathing in larger particles from an infected person.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently said: “I know the last few months have been challenging, and many people are excited to be able see friends and family outdoors for the first time in months.”

However, Mr Hancock added that the rising coronavirus cases in Europe show that “this virus still poses a very real threat.”

He said: “We have come so far thanks to the vaccine rollout and that progress must be protected. So let’s take this next step safely, when you meet others do so outdoors, and keep a safe distance.”