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Pubs, bars and clubs across the UK were packed last night ahead of the Government's "Rule of Six" coming into play.
Revellers packed town and city centres to make the most of one last night of freedom before gatherings of more than six people are banned.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new 'rule of six' last Wednesday, when he announced tougher measures to tackle to increasing likelihood of a second wave of coronavirus.
From tomorrow, people in England will be banned from meeting in groups of more than six in private homes or public indoor places, with on-the-spot fines of £100.
These will double for repeat offenders, reaching a maximum fine of £3,200.
Brits had almost a full week in which to attend large gatherings before they became illegal.
Current rules stipulate that up to 30 people from two separate households can meet in public. But from midnight tonight, all that will change.
Households and support bubbles are exempt, and it doesn't affect workplaces or schools.
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Controversially, Johnson announced new 'Coronavirus Wardens' would help local authorities by monitoring groups of people meeting up – and reporting back on their antics if they have broken rules.
It is not known if the new restrictions will be lifted or increased by the time Christmas arrives, leaving many larger families and those with older relatives deeply troubled about logistics.
But last night thoughts of the killer virus were at the backs of boozers' minds as they got dolled up for a night on the town.
Youngsters in Manchester, Newcastle, London and Cardiff were seen letting their hair down – and ignoring social distancing for a last hurrah with pals… and plenty of booze.
There were fears that the Government's delay in enforcing the restrictions would result in people putting themselves in danger of infection by going out to crowded pubs and parties this weekend.
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John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "There is a real risk some members of the public will take advantage of the current situation and treat this weekend as a party weekend ahead of the tighter restrictions being introduced on Monday.
"Alcohol and warm weather are not a good combination at the best of times.
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"Using the current situation as an opportunity and excuse to party would be incredibly irresponsible and put pressure not only on policing, but potentially on the ambulance service and NHS.
"We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and we have seen cases increasing over recent weeks. Policing is under pressure like never before, but my colleagues will give enforcement notices if they feel it's appropriate, and we make no apology for doing so."
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Coronavirus cases are now doubling in the UK every seven to eight days, with the R rate at 1.7 — well above the "safe" threshold of below 1.
A recent study by Imperial College found the highest rates are among young people aged 18 to 24, with Yorkshire, the North East and the North West of England the worst affected.
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There are reports that the spike in cases is directly linked to the Government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which encouraged Brits to eat at restaurants offering 50% discounts.
The move was intended to rescue the food industry which has taken a massive blow from the pandemic, but now there are fears that crowded restaurants have only made things worse.
- Boris Johnson
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