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Tighter socialising rules in England after virus spike

LONDON: The British government yesterday set out tighter rules on social gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with concern mounting at rising infection rates among the young.

The law in England will change from next week to reduce the number of people who can gather socially from 30 to six, with some exemptions.

A new public information campaign was also launched to emphasise the importance of hand-washing, the use of face coverings and maintaining social distancing.

"We need to act now to stop the virus spreading," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

More than 41,500 people confirmed to have coronavirus have died in Britain, the worst toll in Europe.

The death rate has now fallen to its lowest level since mid-March.

Mr Johnson's office said medical and scientific advisers had agreed that "urgent action is needed", while the police had also asked for the rules to be simplified.

LIMIT

Current guidelines stipulate that people must not socialise outside in a group of more than six people from different households.

But the law actually puts that limit at 30 in private spaces.

From Monday, this will be reduced to six, except for large families, weddings, funerals, organised team sports, workplaces and educational settings.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News television in an interview: "Abiding by these rules is absolutely vital to protect life. We've seen the increase in the number of cases, sadly, in the last few days."

Tougher restrictions were imposed on Bolton, near the north-west city of Manchester, after a significant rise in cases.

Bolton was found to have 120 cases per 100,000 people - the highest in the country.

Mr Hancock told Parliament on Tuesday contact tracing data had shown this was "partly due to socialising by people in their 20s and 30s".

A number of pubs were identified as hot spots, and curbs were put on opening hours of hospitality venues, and locals were banned from socialising with people outside their household. - AFP

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