Health Secretary Matt Hancock finally admitted today the rules on social gatherings were too “complicated” over summer.
He said it was “fair” to say this because of the way lockdown was lifted in stages as coronavirus cases dropped.
And he claimed the law change, which bans gatherings of more than six people from Monday, will be “super-simple” to follow.
It comes amid a rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, sparking fears of a second wave.
The Government’s guidance currently says two households of any size are allowed to meet indoors or outdoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors.
However, the police have no powers to break up gatherings of fewer than 30 people, which are not illegal.
But the new rules mean from Monday they will be – with “strict enforcement” in place, according to Mr Hancock.
Fines will start at £100 and go up to £3,200 for “repeated non-compliance”.
Mr Hancock told Times Radio: "This change that we are making, which is necessary because we are seeing the number of cases starting to rise, this will really simplify the rules.
“We’ve got to bring in clear, stricter rules unfortunately this autumn to stop the spread of the virus.
"The majority of people are still following the rules.
“However it is true the feedback we got that the rules over the summer had ended up, because we’d made a series of changes as we’d loosened, had ended up more complicated than they needed to be.
“I think that was fair. Therefore we are making this change to make them super-simple."
Under the new rules, there will be exemptions for weddings, funerals and team sports in a Covid-secure way.
Gatherings of more than six people will also be allowed for work or education purposes, and if a household or support bubble is larger than six.
Mr Hancock blamed the rise in coronavirus cases “largely” on people socialising, adding: “People will have no excuse about not following the rules."
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