Voters and Tory MPs last night urged Boris Johnson to rescue Christmas by exempting children from his ‘rule of six’.
A Daily Mail poll showed more than four in ten support a U-turn on the policy, letting grandparents see their families over the festive season. Tory backbenchers savaged the ‘grotesque’ restriction which, from Monday, bans groups of seven or more in a bid to halt a second wave of coronavirus.
In Scotland and Wales such gatherings are also outlawed – but children under 12 are exempt. Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, called on Mr Johnson to follow suit.
Tim Loughton, a former children’s minister, said the rule was unsustainable.
Downing Street is refusing to back down, even though young children are much less likely to catch or spread Covid-19. Officials said an age threshold would make enforcement too difficult for police officers.
The Mail revealed yesterday that the rule was introduced following a row in Cabinet. On Thursday Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said under-12s would be freed from her version of the rule of six north of the border.
The row intensified yesterday when Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales, said he would do the same.
A new Daily Mail poll has shown that the public has lost faith Boris Johnson’s government with only Rishi Sunak showing a positive approval rating
Boris Johnson’s approval rating is at -21, though he is still seen as more competent than Michael Gove, Priti Patel and Gavin WIlliamson. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has an approval rating of -20
Boris Johnson is determined to push through with his policy which will jeopardise Christmas celebrations in England
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We decided it was not proportionate to include young children who are not vulnerable to coronavirus, or to spreading it in the way that adults are, so therefore we are not including them.’
But Downing Street said: ‘We looked at all of the evidence in advance of the decision that was reached on Wednesday and it was decided to proceed with a rule of six that applies to all ages.
‘What we have done is ensure that the rules have been simplified and strengthened so they are easier to understand. Social distancing measures can only be effective if the public understand them and abide by them.’
Sir Graham said exempting young children was sensible and would help families wrestling over which relatives to see over Christmas.
He added: ‘These are the kind of issues which would be drawn out in a parliamentary debate and it shows why it is wrong for the Government to set rules in an arbitrary way, without parliamentary scrutiny.’
The survey found that 41 per cent of voters say the PM should exempt youngsters, compared with 32 per cent who disagree. It also shows that a third of families have had their plans for Christmas disrupted by the rule of six. Three quarters believe that most people will ignore the limit anyway.
Tory backbenchers are in uproar over the Government’s plan which could jeopardise Christmas for families across the country with their maximum rule of six people. In Scotland, the six maximum does not include children aged 12 and under
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader, said: ‘Kids should not be counted below a certain age.
‘I would prefer the rule to apply to six adults. We know how this virus is being spread, and it’s by young people going out and partying in large groups, so target them instead.’
Tory MP Steve Baker said: ‘It is time for us to actually start living like a free people, not subjecting ourselves to constantly shifting legal requirements, which I think now no one can fully understand.
‘It’s not just about Christmas – it could also be about Remembrance Day.’
Professor Jason Leitch, national clinical director for Scotland, said under-12s usually had only mild symptoms and were unlikely to get the disease.
He added: ‘The other balance you are trying to draw here is kids need to play: it’s an essential part of their social upbringing.’
The Mail’s poll, by JL Partners, found that well over half of people back the view that the Government’s anti-coronavirus strategy shows signs of ‘panic’, and agree that millions are using the pandemic as an ‘excuse’ not to return to their workplace.
It also provides evidence that plans for ‘Covid marshals’ could become a snoopers’ charter. As many as 32 per cent say they will report on neighbours they suspect of flouting the new rules, with 49 per cent saying they would not.
The Prime Minister will take comfort from support for his ‘rule of six’. Six in ten say it is fair, compared with two in ten who say it is not. There is support for fines of up to £3,200 for those who break new Covid laws more than once.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory Backbenchers urged Boris Johnson, to follow Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to exclude children under 12 from their count of six people
But many people draw the line at tougher penalties. A total of 46 per cent say it should not be an arrestable offence, against 43 per cent who say it should. Three quarters say the Government’s overall Covid message is ‘confusing’, while only 12 per cent say it is not.
The poll indicates solid public backing for calls by ministers and business leaders for staff to return to their workplaces.
The survey shows confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership has been dented by mistakes in his coronavirus strategy and his decision to break the law over the Brexit ‘divorce’ deal with the EU.
For the first time Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is level pegging with him on the question of who is best leader. Mr Johnson has slumped to seventh place in the coronavirus ratings of top Tories, even behind gaffe-prone Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preferred as prime minister by 39 per cent, well ahead of Mr Johnson on 31. Meanwhile, most think Mr Johnson’s £100billion ‘moonshot’ plan for ten million Covid tests a day is more akin to moonshine.
A total of 77 per cent say it is not credible and 61 per cent believe that the huge reported cost does not represent value for money.
Only 28 per cent say ministers have handled the pandemic well.
Michael Gove helped push through the Rule of 6 despite the strong opposition of cabinet colleagues
Michael Gove played a key role in pushing through this week’s controversial Covid-19 clampdown, it emerged last night.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was heavily outnumbered at a meeting of Boris Johnson’s Covid cabinet on Tuesday when he put forward plans to cut the limit on social gatherings to just six.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Home Secretary Priti Patel are understood to have made the case for a higher limit of at least eight. But a Cabinet source said Mr Gove had also played a pivotal role in ensuring that the controversial rule of six was brought in.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, pictured, was determined to limit the number of people who could meet up in public or private to just six, despite the strong objections of several cabinet colleagues who wanted a higher number
The government was forced to announce the dramatic restrictions following dire predictions by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, left, and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, right
‘Michael was driving this. For some time now he’s been consistently on the side of the toughest, most heavy-handed approach,’ the source said.
‘There was a lot of dissent. The PM was completely torn, and the meeting did not conclude well.’
One Cabinet minister told the Mail: ‘The numbers are awful and it is clear we have got to do something.
‘But the idea of the Government threatening to fine and arrest people for seeing their families makes me feel sick.’
A source close to Mr Gove confirmed he had been ‘supportive of moving to six’ but played down suggestions of a row. ‘It was a thorough consideration of the policy,’ the source said.
The PM’s spokesman saying it was ‘inaccurate’ to suggest Mr Hancock had been a lone voice. One insider said a ‘good few’ ministers had supported the restriction. No 10 has also denied that the PM had to be ‘talked round’ to adopting a policy which he later said ‘breaks my heart’.
The new rule of six represents a dramatic cut in the legal limit on the size of groups who can meet, which previously stood at 30.
The decision to back it at Tuesday’s meeting of the PM’s Coronavirus Strategy Committee meeting followed presentations on the recent surge in the virus by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
The families defying the rule of six: Furious father reveals how he faces leaving his child’s BIRTHDAY so the grandparents can visit as defiant parents vow to risk arrest to spend Christmas with loved ones
Defiant parents in England have vowed to ignore controversial new measures limiting more than six people gathering together – including children.
From Monday, the so-called ‘rule of six’ will come into force across the UK, with restrictions placed on the number of people meeting up both indoors and outdoors.
However, only England will count children as part of the six, after Wales and Scotland both ruling those under 12 are exempt.
The move has led to fury among parents, with fears that it could lead to Christmas being cancelled this year.
Father-of-three Alastair Smart, 34, told Mail Online: ‘We’re a family of 5 (kids are 11, 5 & 7 weeks old) and it’s almost another lockdown for us.
‘It’s our eldest’s birthday on Wednesday and in order to have my wife’s parents over to see him I’m going to have to leave the house.
‘How does me going out to go shopping, the pub or over my mate’s house with four other mates stop the spread of COVID? We’re also going to have to cancel a trip to Centre Parcs with another family of three. Under the new law I’d be able to book a new trip with 5 other mates from 5 other households.
‘It’s ridiculous. To exempt children of under 12 makes complete sense, why should my six week old son count towards this absurd rule?’
Mother-of-two Lisa Parker, 50, slammed the decision, adding: ‘I’m hosting Christmas this year. There will be eight of us. My hubby and me and our two kids – as well as my 82-year-old mum, my sister, brother in law and our niece. My 11-year-old niece is adopted – saved from the care system into a loving home and an extended family.
‘If Boris thinks I’m going to deprive that precious child of a fun Christmas day- with the people who love her most in the world – he’s got another think coming.
‘My old mum is 82 – still drives and has lots of friends – she’s not scared. Life is for living is what she taught me and that’s I’m teaching my own kids. There is risk in every thing we do. We’ll take our chances with this virus. So let the police come and arrest me on Christmas Day.
‘I’ll toast the New Year in from a jail cell in defence of my rights. But what we all should be worried about is why are we being controlled with dystopian rules like this, when the hospitals are empty and deaths are in single figures?’
Father-of-three Alastair Smart, 34, is one of the parents who has criticised the government ruling. Pictured with his family, he told Mail Online: ‘We’re a family of 5 (kids are 11, 5 & 7 weeks old) and it’s almost another lockdown for us’
Mother-of-two Lisa Parker has slammed the decision and vowed to carry on with Christmas dinner as normal, despite the new rules. Pictured is her family together last Christmas
Pictured is Lisa with her two children and husband John. Lisa told MailOnline: ‘We’ll take our chances with this virus. So let the police come and arrest me on Christmas Day. ‘I’ll toast the New Year in from a jail cell in defence of my rights’
Caron Higham-Wood said: ‘I have 4 children, all have partners and three live separately to myself and my husband.
‘My eldest has twins, aged 2. My elderly parents, ages 78 and 79 haven’t see their grandchildren or great grandchildren since the beginning of lockdown.
‘With no end in sight, they are coming to visit this weekend in order to adhere to the rule of six by Monday. That makes us a family of 14 this weekend. Something we would have happily staggered if this rule wasn’t being brought in to force.
‘My youngest is frontline NHS! How can this be right. At the end of the day, I would rather have my family around me and fear catching this virus , than live a lonely existence and allow my mental health to further decline. We are social creatures, and having the liberty of social contact denied us, is having serious consequences. Living without hugging my family hurts.’
Janis Allen said: ‘My family have complied with all the rules until now. We are 6 adults and two children aged 7&8. I will go to prison rather than stop seeing my family after being without them for the 10 weeks of lockdown. I feel such despair.’
Mother-of-three Laura Cole, 32, said she had ‘no doubt’ that the exemption for children should be introduced in England.
‘The schools have been allowed to open again and the schools are all together so I feel it’s a little irrelevant the children have been included in this,’ Mrs Cole told MailOnline.
She added: ‘The beginning of lockdown it was easy to explain to [the children] you couldn’t go out.
‘Now they’re back at school again with their year group bubbles, trying to explain to them you can’t go to the park after school again with friends, we’re not going to be able to.’
Mrs Cole, whose children are aged 14, 10 and 7, said that the new rules would especially hamper the lives of the young, adding that Scotland’s exemption for those under 12 was a ‘brilliant idea’.
Mrs Cole said: ‘My son, he’s 14, he meets up on the way to school with a group of people… is he not going to be able to do that now?’
Speaking of the coming festive season, Mrs Cole said: ‘Christmas is a time for family. Both be and my husband have got very big family.’
Boris Johnson said at a Downing Street press briefing that the new restrictions were essential
Alluding to the six person limit, she said that, as a family of five, they would only be able to host one relative at a time.
She said: ‘We’re not going to have my father-in-law with his wife… how are we going to manage that?’
‘We’re still going to see those people but probably one at a time.
When asked if she though people will stick to these rules, Mrs Cole said: ‘Absolutely not.’
‘I’m not taking importance away from the fact that this is a very dangerous virus and it is killing people.’
She added: ‘I think it will be a rule broken by all, especially on Christmas Day, if not before.’
Earlier, Wales introduced its own ‘rule of six’ limiting people meeting indoors in a bid to tackle rising coronavirus cases but, unlike England, children under 12 will not be included.
First Minister Mark Drakeford also confirmed this morning that people will still be allowed to continue to meet in groups of 30 outdoors, insisting that evidence shows the virus does not travel in the fresh air.
The stance of the Welsh government could fuel further unrest against Boris Johnson, after Nicola Sturgeon also exempted children from the similar ban in Scotland.
Mr Johnson faces a Tory backlash after the Scottish First Minister copied his restrictions – but with the crucial difference that children under 12 would be exempt.
Ms Sturgeon announced there would be a maximum of six people for social groups – but gave potential hope for family gatherings and Christmas celebrations by excluding children under 12 from the limit.
Welsh First Minister Mr Drakeford has now followed suit, while also ensuring the ‘rule of six’ is only applied to indoor meetings in Wales.
He added: ‘Children will be treated in Wales how they are treated in Scotland. Young children will not be counted in the total of six because again we know that children are much less likely to transmit the disease to others.
‘They’re much less likely to suffer from the disease than other people. We have to test our rules in Wales against the principle of proportionality. Is it proportionate to prevent children from being able to meet indoors? It’s not, we don’t believe, and therefore they are not included in our rule of six.’
Explaining why groups of 30 will continue to be allowed to meet outdoors, Mr Drakeford added: ‘We’ve known for a long time that the virus does not travel between people in the fresh air in the way that it does inside houses.
‘We want to continue to make that distinction so that, in the remainder of this autumn, while the weather will still allow people to get together in the open air, we don’t want to prevent people from doing that.
‘Here, we will introduce a restriction indoors because the evidence in Wales is that you catch the virus from people you know because you meet them indoors and you behave in a way that is relaxed and is the way you would normally behave.
‘I’m afraid because of that behaviour we’re seeing numbers rise in parts of Wales.
A backlash to the plans in England is gathering pace, with Conservative MPs warning that the restrictions might be ‘worse than the disease itself’, condemning the ‘broad brush’ approach and unhappy that there has not been any scrutiny in Parliament.
The new restrictions have also drawn the ire of parents, some of whom say the plans make little sense with children already back in school.
Some say they will accept whatever fine comes their way, refusing to let the PM ‘ruin Christmas’.
There are fears within his party that Mr Johnson might be seen as the ‘Grinch’ if the block on families spending time together is still in place for the festive season.
Young people queue to get into a pub in Cardiff city centre at night. A ban on groups of more than six people meeting indoors in Wales, including pubs and restaurants is set to come into force on Monday
Tory MP Steve Baker told MailOnline: ‘I doubt the government’s measures can long endure when it is becoming clear that they are disproportionate.’
David Jones MP said: ‘I can understand that the Government has to do something, because there is certainly an uptick. But it is not an uptick across the country as a whole. There are some parts of the country such as Devon, Dorset where there is very little virus activity at all.
‘So it does seem to be very broad brush… I would have thought something more concentrated would be better.’
He added that while crowded pubs had been ‘asking for trouble’ it was ‘not something that appears to be uniform across the country’.
‘Something more focused would be appropriate,’ he said.
Mr Johnson faces a Tory backlash after the Scottish First Minister copied his restrictions – but with the crucial difference that children under 12 would be exempt
The rate of infection per 100,000 people in the UK has remained very low among younger children, despite rising among teenagers and young adults
Slides presented at the press conference last show that young adults are driving the increase in Covid cases – but the incidence among young children and the older generation remains very low
Belgium exempted U-12s from its Covid crackdown
Ministers have praised Belgium for curtailing a second wave of coronavirus by limiting the number of people who can socialise together and imposing curfews.
The European country experienced a resurgence of the virus in mid-July that was comparable to the UK’s current trajectory.
On July 29, officials there brought in new rules reducing the size of social ‘bubbles’ so that each family could only have five fixed contacts.
However, under-12s were not included in the numbers.
The city of Antwerp, the worst hit in the country, brought in a curfew at the end of July that every member of the public must be home between 11.30am and 6am.
In mid-August the curfew period was eased to 1.30am to 5am.
There is a limit of four people sitting at a table together in restaurants, unless they are from the same household.
Plans to reopen nightclubs and major events have also been put on hold.
In Brussels, wearing a face mask became compulsory in all public areas on 12 August.
Police have also been enforcing the rules more strictly.
Coronavirus infections started to rise in Belgium in mid-July, with the weekly case rate going over 35 per 100,000 by August- the level currently being felt in Britain – and daily infections breaching 1,000.
The numbers have fallen over recent weeks, with only 194 new cases reported on September 1.
People have voiced their disapproval for the new policy on social media. One commenter said: ‘Why should kids count, they are all in school in groups bigger than six.’
Another said: ‘Makes far more sense to me not to include kids under 12 from ”Rule of 6” when already going to school?’
A third said: ‘Boris is killing the economy. At least kids under 12 not included in Scotland. Madness to include under 12s in England.’
The developments came as it emerged more than two thirds of people in England are being forced into stricter coronavirus rules from Monday despite living in relatively unaffected areas.
Around 38million residents will be lumped into lockdown as the nation is told to ‘limit social contact’ and face fines or police action if they meet in groups of more than six people.
Speaking at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government’s latest assessment was that the R rate was over one, and ‘possibly as high as 1.5.
Tory MPs confronted Matt Hancock in the Commons chamber as he defended the new measures.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 backbench committee, said the ‘profound restrictions’ had not been considered enough.
He asked Mr Hancock: ‘Why has there not been a debate or vote in the House of Commons this week?’
Former minister Harriet Baldwin said she was concerned the government was imposing ‘more restrictions on people’s liberty’.
She said the goal previously had been to avoid the NHS being swamped. ‘Has he now gone further and is he aiming for zero Covid in England?’ she added.
Sir Desmond Swayne asked the minister: ‘Is there no scintilla of doubt in (his) mind occasioned by the growing body of scientific opinion which questions the interpretation of the data and concludes that the policies of governments, I use the plural, the policies of governments are having an impact worse than the disease itself?’
Mr Hancock replied: ‘I firmly believe, not only based on the clinical advice, but also based on my own analysis of and judgment of the facts and the international comparisons, that it is necessary for the public health of the nation to take actions to control the spread of the disease.’
Another MP told MailOnline Mr Johnson would unfairly end up being seen as ‘the Grinch’ if the restrictions dragged on to Christmas – especially as Ms Sturgeon was being more permissive.
‘It is not him. It is not who he is,’ the MP lamented.
One normally-loyal backbencher said they were completely miserable about the situation.
‘I hate it. I think it is stupid… if it’s got to be done it has got to be done, but I don’t like it,’ they said. ‘You think ”boll***s to this, we should let it all drop now.’
The MP added grudgingly: ‘I suppose if they do all this and it stops another lockdown it will be worth it.’