MICHAEL Gove has sparked fury as he insists children will remain part of “rule of six” next week.
The Cabinet Office Minister said the rule would not be altered to exempt children in England amid pressure on the Tory backbenches.
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The new clampdown, which limits those meeting indoors and out to groups of six, comes into effect from Monday and comes as coronavirus cases continue to soar across the UK.
Although Mr Gove acknowledged that “family life is important”, he reiterated the need for “restraint and self-discipline” in order to see a drop in infections.
Speaking with BBC Breakfast he said: “I entirely understand, family life is so important but the rule is there, the rule is clear and it commands public confidence.
“The key thing is if we maintain these rules, if we maintain a degree of restraint and self-discipline and co-operation, then we can keep the reinfection rate down, we can protect our grandparents which is the single most important thing.
“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.”
The minister further urged people to act “in tune with” the rules this weekend ahead of Monday.
“The reason why the country’s police chiefs have said that they hope people behave with appropriate restraint this weekend is we do not want to see a further acceleration of the spread of the virus,” he added.
But many parents of larger families feel it is unfair that people are able to go to pubs, play sports and commute into offices while they and their children would be separated from friends and family – once again isolated after months in lockdown.
Sarah Pearson, 41, from Norwich, has six children, five of whom are at school and live with her at home.
The rule means she would face a £100 fine if the group met with anyone outside the family.
“My children didn’t leave our front garden for months. It’s been incredibly hard,” the trainee teaching assistant explained.
These kids are all in classes together at school but can’t play in the park together on the way home from school. It’s nonsense.
“It will cause tears, I am already the parent being strict and saying we play outside and no to sleepovers when others are doing them. And we are being careful. It’s another thing that separates them from friends.
“These kids are all in classes together at school but can’t play in the park together on the way home from school. It’s nonsense.”
Ms Pearson called on the Government to be “sensible like Scotland and Wales” and exempt children from the rule.
She added: “I had someone tell me I should stay at home, but it’s not that simple when my children need to go to school and I have to carry on with placement and look for work so my benefits aren’t sanctioned.”
Another parent with children aged four, six, eight and 10 now faces the prospect of being banned from spending Christmas with her ill elderly grandfather.
“He’s 95, was in great health until very recently and my Nan is 90. All they want is to be with the great-grand-children for Christmas,” said the mother.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she would not abide by the rules in such circumstances, insisting she would see her elderly relatives as “it could be our last chance”.
Rachel Deackes, 36, from Leicester, lives with her husband and three children and shielded during national and then local lockdowns due to her ulcerative colitis.
“There is me, my husband, a 12-year-old son and nine-year-old twins. So as a five it means we either have to choose to see just one person or nobody,” she said.
“I’ve hardly seen my parents or my husband’s parents or my brother and partner because I had to shield for so long.”
Mr Gove denied that the Government was losing control of Covid-19. “No. I don’t accept that,” he said.
Similar rules in Wales and Scotland do not include children under 11 and 12 respectively.
Some Conservative backbenchers have protested against the rule of six, and pressed the government to follow Wales and Scotland in exempting young children.
However, Mr Gove said the England rules were “absolutely right”.