UK: No gatherings over 6, students to stay at university during outbreak
A woman wearing a face mask walks close to Northumbria University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north-east England on October 3, 2020 as many students self-isolate in a bid to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus covid-19 on the campus. - Northumbria University, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, announced that as of October 2, it was aware of 770 cases, 78 of whom are symptomatic. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

UK’s guidelines for social distancing is now updated in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. These new rules apply strictly to those in England. If you’re an international student, read on.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said these rules will be enforced for the “foreseeable future.” However, the government is hoping to turn the situation around by Christmas.

Social distancing in the UK: Six-person limit for group gatherings

From Sept. 14, 2020, any gathering of more than six people will be illegal in England. Plus, you must be more than one-metre apart at all times. This applies to everyone in private homes and dorms, as well as public spaces such as pubs, restaurants, and cafes. For example, restaurants will be allowed to have more than six people at a time, as long as there are no more than six to each table.

social distancing UK

Festival-goers at Gisburne Park Pop-Up, the first socially-distanced outdoor festival in the UK in July 2020. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

Gatherings at schools, workplaces, weddings, funerals, and team sports are exempted from this rule. Any other guilty party will be fined 100 pounds; this fine doubles on each offence up to a maximum of 3,200 pounds.

Hancock assured that the new gathering limit will be “rigorously enforced by the police.” Current rules for social distancing in the UK allow gatherings of 30 people from two households or six people from different households outdoors. It’s also worth noting that the maximum number of people differs in Scotland (up to 15 from 5 households), Wales (up to 30 outdoors), and Northern Ireland (up to 15 outdoors).

What does this mean for students on campus? If you are living in a dorm or household of more than six people, know that you are exempt from this rule — but don’t go out for coffee with all your housemates until further notice. No parties or piling into each other’s rooms too. Breaking these new social distancing rules could get you kicked out of campus. Institutions will be responsible for aiding and monitoring social distancing on campus, including setting up “social bubbles.”

social distancing UK

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said students should not leave campus if another COVID-19 outbreak occurs. Source: AFP Photo/Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament

Students should not leave campus in the event of an outbreak

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said that universities will be instructed not to send students home if another COVID-19 outbreak occurs, “so as to avoid spreading the virus across the country.” If you fall sick on campus, you will be isolated and your university will be responsible for caring for you.

He added: “My message to students is simple: please, for the sake of your education, for your parents’, for your grandparents’ health, wash your hands, cover your face, make space, don’t socially gather in groups of more than six now and when term starts.”

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

UK visa updates for international students: Here’s what you should know

No direct flights and TB tests: It’s still hard for international students to get to the UK