STOPPING to chat with another family in the street would break the 'rule of six' law, Priti Patel said today.
The Home Secretary said any "mingling" with a group of over six would riskthose people being slapped with a £100 fine.
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And she admitted today she would snitch on her own neighbours if they were spreading coronavirus and breaking rules.
It came as the new 'rule of six' laws came into force yesterday in England – banning anyone from gathering in groups of more than that.
Ms Patel was asked on the BBC's Radio 4 today whether a family of four could stop and chat with another family of four in the street.
But she replied: "It is mingling.
"The rule of six is about making sure people are being conscientious and not putting people's health at risk.
"Coronavirus is increasing."
It came as:
- Britain faces a testing crisis as thousands of people are unable to get their hands on vital tests
- The shortage is having an impact on the NHS as staff have to isolate and can't get the all-clear to return to work
- Tough new lockdown rules came into force in Birmingham today – banning people from seeing other households
- No 10 said it would be up to police to “use their discretion” when enforcing new laws.
It was revealed yesterday that most gatherings are not exempt from the new rule of six laws – including trick-or-treating, five-a-side football and rubbing shoulders in the pub.
Gatherings at “significant milestones” such as weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs are still allowed — but not birthdays.
Halloween celebrations will be outlawed as family groups of six and under would be “mingling” while knocking doors to trick or treat.
And groups of up to 30 can go hunting or grouse shooting – a move which infuriated the public.
Parents will not be permitted to take children to the park for a playdate with another family if the group would be more than six — but the same gathering would be allowed if the children were taken by a registered childminder.
Sunday League football games can go ahead but “informal” kick-abouts are banned.
But top lawyer Adam Wagner said last night: “What does mingle mean? Is saying hello to someone at a gathering ‘mingling’? What about holding the door open for them?”
The national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales has called for more guidance over enforcement of the rule of six.
'WE NEED GUIDANCE'
In response to a question about having "more guidance" on Good Morning Britain, John Apter responded: "Maybe we should have 'guidance', because we haven't had any yet."
Mr Apter said he understood the Government faced a "very fast-moving" and complicated situation.
"But my colleagues who are on the front line trying to interpret this law, trying to educate and work with the public, are now being accused of asking (people) to snitch on their neighbours."
SNITCH YOUR NEIGHBOURS
Ms Patel also admitted she would snitch on her own neighbours if she saw them behaving "inappropriately".
She told the BBC: "If people's health would be at risk, it would be right to report that.
"If I saw inappropriate behaviour which would lead to the spread of the disease…"
Many flouted the new rulings yesterday as the temperature rose and large groups flocked to parks across the UK to soak up the sun.
Hundreds headed for beaches, paying no heed to the threat of a £100 fine.
Ms Patel refused to say today if ministers are looking at rationing tests to those who really need them, or whether they would introduce an order of priority.
She said that capacity was the highest it had ever been, and it was increasing every day.
Matt Hancock last week suggested that if too many people keep trying to get a test that they are not eligible for, they may be forced to come up with a new system.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said the last of tests was impacting on the health service.
He said this morning: "We have now got cases where patients who should be being treated, we can't treat them because they can't get access to a test.
"So, for them that's a real problem."
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