Brits flock to pubs and bars for ‘last weekend of freedom’ before ‘Rule of Six’
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Friday night saw revellers flocking to bars and pubs in huge numbers on the last Friday before new coronavirus restrictions on group gatherings.
From Monday there will be a strict cap on six people for all indoor and outdoor meetings and celebrations.
Brits seem to be making the most of what could be their last weekend of freedom for some time, with beer gardens and restaurants around London, Manchester and Nottingham absolutely crammed.
There are reportedly more large events planned for the rest of the weekend, with sold-out London parties including a boozy "bottomless brunch", a Brixton rooftop soirée and a boat cruise along the Thames.
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One promoter tweeted that their Hackney event which was originally scheduled for September 20 had been moved forward to this Sunday to comply with the new rules.
There were fears that the Government's delay in enforcing the restrictions would result in people putting themselves in danger of infection by going out to crowded pubs and parties this weekend.
The new six-person rule was announced on Tuesday, giving Brits almost a full week in which to attend large gatherings before they become illegal.
Current rules stipulate that up to 30 people from two separate households can meet in public. From Monday police will be able to break up groups of seven or more and issue a £100 fine to rule-breakers. The penalty will rise up to £3,200 for repeat offenders.
Households and existing "support bubbles" of more than six people are exempt from the rule.
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "There is a real risk some members of the public will take advantage of the current situation and treat this weekend as a party weekend ahead of the tighter restrictions being introduced on Monday.
"Alcohol and warm weather are not a good combination at the best of times.
"Using the current situation as an opportunity and excuse to party would be incredibly irresponsible and put pressure not only on policing, but potentially on the ambulance service and NHS.
"We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and we have seen cases increasing over recent weeks. Policing is under pressure like never before, but my colleagues will give enforcement notices if they feel it's appropriate, and we make no apology for doing so."
Coronavirus cases are now doubling in the UK every seven to eight days, with the R rate at 1.7 — well above the "safe" threshold of below 1.
A recent study by Imperial College found the highest rates are among young people aged 18 to 24, with Yorkshire, the North East and the North West of England the worst affected.
There are reports that the spike in cases is directly linked to the Government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which encouraged Brits to eat at restaurants offering 50% discounts.
The move was intended to rescue the food industry which has taken a massive blow from the pandemic, but now there are fears that crowded restaurants have only made things worse.
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