Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday a major change in law as part of England’s fight against coronavirus – but what does it mean for University students?
Thousands are set to arrive in Nottingham as students begin to continue their studies.
As of September 14, it will be illegal to gather in a group of more than six people – including children and babies.
Police will have powers to fine law breakers £100, with fines doubling to a max value of £3,200 for repeat offenders.
They do not, though, have power to force entry to homes.
The rule is that you cannot have more than six people in the same place at the same time.
This means that a household of seven people could not invite their friends over to their home, or even meet them in a park, all at the same time.
If three members were out, though, then two friends could come over.
At Platform, we have taken the time to read the new guidance applicable so that you can easily understand it.
Who is in my household if I am in university halls?
Based on the guidance, it is the responsibility of accommodation providers to identify these to you. A household in halls is normally considered to be those living in the same flat, or on the same floor, as you and you share a kitchen and/or bathroom rather than an entire block.
The rule of six applies in this instance, banning gatherings of more than six people who are not in your household.
Can I still go to the pub with friends?
Yes, you can go to the pub as long as your group is not larger than six individuals.
Venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines, such as pubs and restaurants, can host more than six people in total; however, the groups of customers should be no more than six.
When visiting a COVID-19 Secure place – such as a pub, shop, leisure venue, restaurant or place of worship – you should:
- Follow the limits on the number of other people you should meet with as a group
- Avoid social interaction with anyone outside the group you are with, even if you see others that you know
- Provide contact details to the organiser so that you can be tested if needed by the NHS Test and Trace programme
Can I go to the pub or restaurant with people I do not live with?
When eating or drinking out with people you do not live with (and who are not in your support bubble), you should keep to the rules on a max of six people.
People from different households should ensure they social distance as much as possible. The premises should take reasonable steps to help you do so in line with COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
What exceptions are there from the ‘Rule Of Six’?
The rule of six guidance states that more than six people are permitted to attend “certain significant life events”, such as christenings, baptisms and bar mitzvahs. However, celebratory receptions of up to 30 people are only allowed for weddings and civil partnerships.
Other exemptions include those with the purpose of formal childcare provided by a registered provider. Family and friends can provide informal childcare, as long as groups from different households do not exceed six people.
It means that, for example, a household of five at university can only invite over one friend or family member at a time.
The full list of exceptions, where groups can be larger than six, include:
- Schools and other education venues will be able to operate and accommodate groups of more than six
- Groups of more than six can meet for work-related purposes
- Weddings and funerals can go ahead with a limit of 30 people in a location following Covid-19 guidelines
- Gathering as a household where you are more than six is allowed (for example, where seven people live in one house)
- Meeting as a support bubble will be accepted if the bubble exceeds six
- Organised team sports games can go ahead
- Registered childcare services are allowed
- If you need to move home, then the exemptions will also apply
Is it safe for me to return to University?
Yes. Guidance issued to universities has advised a range of safety measures, including ventilation, a hybrid of online and face-to-face teaching, the use of face masks in communal areas and good hand hygiene.
What will happen to my studies in the event of a local lockdown?
The COVID-19 contain framework sets out how national and local partners will work together to prevent, contain and manage local outbreaks.
In certain instances, universities may have to follow guidance on ‘tiers of restriction’.
Based on four different tiers, universities may be required to provide a greater proportion of online learning.
If I become unwell with coronavirus can I return home?
No. If you become unwell with coronavirus, you should self-isolate within your accommodation at university.
This is in order to reduce any chance of the virus spreading to another area of the country.
In the event of a local lockdown, do I stay at Uni?
Yes. Students are expected to follow the guidance on social contact in their local area when attending university.
In the event of restrictions being imposed on a local area, such as your non-term-time home, you should not travel back.
Can I see my partner / boyfriend / girlfriend? Do I need to social distance?
Yes, you can see your partner / boyfriend / girlfriend. Social distancing does not need to be maintained between those in an “established relationship”.
If you are in the early stages of a relationship, the new guidance adds that you should “follow the guidance on social distancing.”
It continues to say that if close contact with someone is intended, you should talk about how you can “prevent risks of transmission as a couple, for example, by ensuring you are both avoiding close contact with people you do not live with.”
How will the new rules be enforced?
The Government announced that the rule of six will become law on Monday, September 14. This means that the Police will have legal powers to enforce the restrictions, including a fixed penalty notice of £100.
This value of fine will double for further breaches, rising to a maximum of £3,200.
Later this month, businesses will also be required to make sure there are no unlawful gatherings in their premises.
Organisers of events such as house parties or raves – in which more than 30 people are in attendance – could face a £10,000 fine.
When can I go and watch football?
The Government has been looking into the pilot return of spectators.
However, all pilots are currently on pause until the balance of risk allows them to be resumed.
They claim they will also “review our intention to return audiences to stadia from 1 October”.
Can I play sport outside? Does this need to be limited to six people?
Sport can be played in any number if it is formally organised by a sports club or similar organisation, and sports-governing body guidance has been issued.
If you are playing sport informally, such as in the park or a private garden, no more than 30 people can be involved (including participants, coaches, umpires, spectators).
Team sports that do not have approved guidance should not be played if you cannot socially distance from people you do not live with.
When playing sports informally with people you do not live with, you must limit the size of your group to six. It will be illegal to do so in a larger group from September 14 as per wider rule of six guidelines.
Can I go on a day trip?
Yes, these are permitted within the new information, but hygiene and safety precautions should be taken if using services on the way.
You should practice social distancing from others outside your household or support bubble.
Can I go on holiday?
Yes. However, you should not go on holiday in England with people you do not live with (or who are not in your support bubble) in a group larger than six people.
You should ensure you maintain social distancing with anyone you do not live with or is not in your support bubble.
What do I do if I become unwell while on holiday in England?
If you develop symptoms of coronavirus while staying in overnight accommodation, you should inform the provider immediately, self-isolate where you are to reduce the risk of transmission, and request a test by calling 119 or online at nhs.uk.
If you test positive, you must return home as quickly and directly as possible. You should use private transport but only drive yourself if you can do so safely.
You should avoid using public transport. If you cannot avoid this, you should continue to self-isolate in your accommodation and call 111 for further advice. In most instances, you should make arrangements to travel home as safely as possible, while minimising the risk to others.
Can I pray in a place of worship?
Places of worship will stay open for services and communal prayer in line with the guidance issued to them.
They can stay open for services for more than six people, but individual groups of more than one household (or support bubble) must not exceed six people.
Social interaction between people within these venues should be limited.
Can I have a party within my accommodation?
The rule of six law makes it illegal for more than six people to gather in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces, but excluding halls of residence).
The guidance states “HE [higher education] providers should not permit students to have private gatherings in halls of residence that exceed the limits for gatherings in private households and would therefore breach Covid-secure guidelines.”
What happens if I am an international student and have to self-isolate on arrival?
Students travelling from countries not on the exemption list will need to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days.
The guidance adds that, during this time, “systemic arrangements for the provision of food and drink” must be in place to avoid the necessity of the self-isolating student leaving their room or accommodation.
It is the responsibility of universities to ensure that students are safe and well looked after during their self-isolation period.
For updates on what is going on from within the campus, there’s also a Facebook group that allows you access to news from both us and fellow students.
By Matt Lee
Featured photo credit: Andrew Parsons