The Government announced yesterday that new measures will be introduced from Monday 14 September to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus, and keep infections down.

In addition to the continuing recommendation to frequently wash hands for 20 seconds with soap (or use hand sanitiser), wear masks in indoor settings, and respect 2m social distancing (or 1m with other precautions), there are new rules regarding the number of people who can meet up.

From Monday groups of more than 6 people from different households are not allowed to meet socially, including in private homes.

There are exceptions to this including where family groups, or ‘bubbles’ number more than 6 people. Places of worship and other Covid-secure settings are also exempt, as well as education and work settings. For weddings and funerals, the limit is 30 people still.

Boris Johnson’s message

Explaining his decision to reduce social gatherings to six people, the prime minister said: “I know over time the rules have become quite complicated and confusing,” referring to previous guidance on the numbers of households allowed to meet and variations on numbers indoors and outside.

“Let me be clear – these measures are not a second national lockdown – the whole point of them is to avoid a second national lockdown,” he said.

Johnson said he had a particular message for young people, including students returning to university, the group in which there has been the largest increase in the number of infections.

“My message to students is simple. Please, for the sake of your education and your parents’ and your grandparents’ health: wash your hands, cover your face, make space, and don’t socially gather in groups of more than six, now and when term starts.”

He said universities would be asked not to send students home if they found positive cases.

Professor Chris Whitty said school closures could be considered as a last resort if the surge in cases continued. “At the moment the rates are still very low. If there were to be a change in that, if there were to be a much broader increase in rates including of school-age children, I think that the current policies would have to be looked at again, as in the other areas,” he said.

Effect on the Voluntary Sector

For the voluntary sector, this will have some impact, depending on the work being done. Where large groups are gathering, for courses, group-work, fitness or sports, etc, the settings should be Covid-secure already, so the impact will not be felt.

Services which visit people’s homes should also be using PPE anyway, and will be unaffected.

Office or other working environments are exempted, as are places of worship, but extra care should be taken to ensure that staff, volunteers and those with whom you are working, are protected – and feel safe as well.

Many meetings have been taking place online since March, but there has been a growing courage around occasional face-to-face meetings, which may now disappear.

Full details of the new measures, which now include stronger enforcement powers for police, can be found on the Government’s website. For more exploration of them, see the BBC.