It means larger groups will be banned from meeting anywhere socially indoors, in homes, outdoor spaces and venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants, but won’t apply to schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports.
Those who fail to comply could be hit with £100 fines, which will double on each offence up to a maximum of £3,200.
The new law, announced at 10:30pm on 8 September, is set to come into force next week (Monday 14 September) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to release further details on this later today (Wednesday 9 September).
Guidance for pubs to reopen was released in June , but licensees queried a section that read: "It is against the law to gather in groups of more than 30 people, except for the limited circumstances as set out in law. In these specific cases, those operating venues should take additional steps to ensure the safety of the public and prevent large gatherings or mass events from taking place."
Already battered sector
A Government spokesperson said: “Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to have more than 30 people on the premises provided Covid-19 secure guidelines are being followed and other social distancing measures are still in place. This includes limiting those at a table to groups from a maximum of two households.”
Pubs and other hospitality venues are not subject to the 30-person limit because they have put measures in place to be Covid-secure, including one-way systems and reduced staff numbers.
BrewDog chief operating officer David McDowall tweeted: “Group size restricted to six in England is very problematic for an already battered hospitality sector.
“Meanwhile, support for businesses is being reigned in as if everything is back to normal. Hospitality is in a very fragile state still. Hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.”
UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls also shared her thoughts on Twitter, saying while she was waiting to hear full details from the Prime Minister, it appears to make the current guidance legally binding and the biggest change is for private households and parks.
British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said the announcement came as a surprise.
She added: “It is clear the Government is concerned about the recent rise in Covid-19 cases. We need to fully assess the detail of the new restrictions when the Prime Minister speaks later today.
“As one of the few sectors participating in track and trace, the pub sector has been fully playing its part in ensuring people follow guidance to contain the spread of the virus up to this point and we will continue to do so.
“The impact of these new announcements can have a cooling effect on public confidence. This restriction comes at a delicate point in our pub recovery after a steady start this summer.
“We were already worried about levels of trade moving into autumn and winter. Pubs will need more support from Government with continued business rates relief, VAT cuts and flexible furlough, as well as a significant cut in beer duty to help them survive, protect jobs and continue to serve communities.
“We need the Government to send the clear message that pubs remain open for business and the public should continue to support them.”