Matt Hancock – 2020 Statement on Covid-19

The statement made by Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, in the House of Commons on 24 September 2020.

As set out by the Prime Minister in Parliament on 22 September, the covid-19 infection rate is rising across the country. It is now vitally important that Government take decisive action to limit any further spread, and reduce the chance of more restrictive measures.

I therefore wish to update you on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2020 (“the No. 2 Amendment Regulations”), and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place and on Public Transport) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 which both came into force on 24 September 2020.

It is now a legal requirement for hospitality venues (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants) to close between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am. This rule also applies to social clubs, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, and adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. However, cinemas, theatres and concert halls will be able to remain open beyond 10 pm if the performance started before 10 pm. There are certain exemptions to these restrictions, including delivery services, drive-through, and service stations. In addition, a “table service only” policy means that customers must be seated to consume food and drink served on hospitality premises.

If businesses do not adhere to these new requirements, they could face a fine of £1,000 increasing in intervals to £2,000 then £4,000 to a maximum of £10,000 for subsequent offences.

The “rule of six” introduced on 14 September prohibits social gatherings of more than six people in England, apart from specific exemptions. These exemptions have been further limited to reduce the risk of covid-19 transmission. The amendments include: limiting attendance at support groups, weddings and wedding receptions to 15 people and removing the existing exemption for ​indoor team sports (except for indoor disabled sports and supervised under-18s sports), and significant life events (other than weddings, civil partnerships, and funerals).

Fines for initial breaches of the rule of six gathering limit have been doubled to reflect the severity of non-compliance. This means fines will be doubled from £100 to £200, doubling again upon reoffence.

Amendments to the face covering regulations introduce a requirement for the public to wear a face covering in retail, leisure and hospitality venues including restaurants, public houses and bars, except for when seated to eat or drink. We have also extended the requirement to wear a face covering to staff working in these settings unless ​they have a reasonable excuse, in areas which are open to the public and where they are likely to come into close contact with members of the public.

The penalty for failing to wear a face covering where one is required or gathering in groups of more than six, will now increase from £100 to £200 on the first offence (reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days), rising to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offenders with no reduction for early payment from the second fine.

Publicly available Government guidance on gov.uk is being updated to ensure that it is consistent with the new regulations. Sector bodies will also produce updated guidance where relevant.