People in England will be allowed to drink at other people’s houses after pubs shut at 10pm under new curfew rules, Michael Gove has said.
The Cabinet Office minister was asked on Tuesday whether the current rules would stop people from continuing to drink in private residences when pubs close.
"It is the case that with the rule of six you can have six people in a social gathering, yes,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
"But the steps we’re taking here reflect some of the evidence that’s been gathered from those parts of the country where these restrictions have already been put in place."
Experts such as Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association, have suggested that the new curfew rules could lead to a “surge” in house parties “which are the real hot beds of infection”.
“As a result of this measure, we foresee a surge of unregulated events and house parties which are the real hot beds of infection, attended by frustrated young people denied access to safe and legitimate night-time hospitality venues.”
Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said Mr Gove’s suggestion that people could extend their night at friends’ houses showed how “the messaging surrounding this sort of restriction is confused and the rationale for implementing it has not been made clear”.
Dr Griffin said: “The concern is that an unfavourable public response to such measures will erode compliance on the fundamental issues of maintaining space and ventilation, wearing face coverings indoors and in crowded areas, and maintaining good hand hygiene.
“The UK population must be brought together to act in unison if we are to avoid an incredibly difficult and disruptive winter as Sars-CoV2 (coronavirus) cases rise again.”
Gove insisted the shift would “make a difference”, adding: “There is evidence that the longer venues stay open, the greater degree of social mixing that takes place.”
He also warned that people should "follow the guidance and common sense" when meeting up with others.
"None of us are entirely without responsibility in this matter,” Gove added, “And it is the case that there are some who will say it’s this one day, it’s that the next.
"Actually the rule of six is still there, it’s still a central part of what we are doing, but are are augmenting it."