Government rules out making children exempt from ‘rule of six’ laws
- Credit: NFU
The Government will not be making children exempt from the new “rule of six” restrictions – despite calls from some Tory MPs.
Cabinet office minister Michael Gove has said the Government is not considering backing down over the “rule of six” restrictions that will come into force on Monday .
With people being urged to act “in tune with” the Covid-19 guidelines this weekend , a former chief scientific adviser has said the UK is “on the edge of losing control” of coronavirus.
And with some Conservative backbenchers putting on the pressure for England to follow Scotland and Wales in exempting under-12s from the six-person limit from the measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, Mr Gove has defended the restriction – and signalled his support for a proposal of fining people who refuse to self-isolate.
Asked if the Government was considering the exemption, Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast: “No. I entirely understand, family life is so important, but the rule is there, the rule is clear and it commands public confidence.”
He said that the measure is necessary to “keep the reinfection rate down” so “we can protect our grandparents”.
He added: “And then we can ensure in due course that these restrictions can be relaxed and my hope like so many is that we can have a proper Christmas.”
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But the new rule is one of two fronts in which the Government is facing rebellion from Conservatives, with some senior Tories also wanting to derail Boris Johnson’s controversial Brexit legislation.
Tory former minister Steve Baker has called for a “voluntary system” of Covid-19 guidance so Britons can “actually start living like a free people”, while senior MP Sir Desmond Swayne said the ban was “absolutely grotesque”.
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Amid allegations the Government was losing control of the virus, Mr Gove indicated support for plans being considered by the Prime Minister to enforce self-isolation guidance.
“I think it is a very fair point,” Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I don’t want to see fines being levied but even more I do not want to see people behaving in a way that puts the most vulnerable at risk.
“Sometimes there’s an argument that’s depicted as though this is pernicious of the liberty of freedom-loving people, well there are restrictions, and I love freedom, but the one thing I think is even more important is that you exercise freedom with responsibility.”
Former chief scientific adviser and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) Sir Mark Walport said that the only way to stop the virus spreading is to reduce the number of people we all come into contact with, adding that there is an “extremely strong argument” that home working should continue.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove denied that the Government was losing control of Covid-19.
“No. I don’t accept that,” he said.
Mr Gove said Sir Mark’s warning is a “warning to us all”, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “I think Sir Mark’s words - he’s a very distinguished scientist - is a warning to us all.
“There’s a range of scientific opinion but one thing on which practically every scientist is agreed is that we have seen an uptick in infection and therefore it is appropriate we take public health measures.”
Coronavirus cases in the UK have risen to the highest level since mid-May, with a total of 3,539 new cases recorded on Friday.
It is the highest daily figure since May 17.