How will the new rules on gatherings work for students in Wales?

We now have Wales’ amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.2) (Wales) Regulations 2020, which will come into force on 14 September 2020.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

UPDATED 15th Sep to reflect Wales’ guidance on meaning of “household”

Here we’ve had a run at understanding the implications of the amended regulations for students and gatherings.

The first thing to note is that in the Welsh guidance a household means:

a group of people living in the same home. A household can be one person living on their own, flatmates, or a family living in the same home. What’s important is that it’s always the same people and the same home.

Part 1 of the regulations allows students to form something called an “extended household” with up to three other households.

That’s pretty clear for students in HMOs. It’s less clear for students in halls of residence – with the main question surrounding who decides the boundaries of a “household” for legal purposes. But let’s assume that it’s whatever the owner of the halls says it is after reading the wider Wales guidance on student accommodation.

Once you know what your household is, you can also form an extended household with up to 3 other households. This is where all the people in all the households join together to become part of a single household and enjoy the same legal freedoms a household has – they are able to meet indoors and have physical contact. They can also stay in each other’s homes.

(And before students ask – a household can only agree to be treated as being in one extended household, and once a household ceases to be treated as being in an extended household, the household may not agree to be treated as being in an extended household with any other household. No swapping around!)

Part 4 deals with gatherings – two or more people in the same place in order to do something together. Indoors anywhere, you can only gather in a group of six max.

What’s that you say? What if I live with more than six people? The guidance covers that:

Where a (single) household is made up of more than six people aged 11 or over, because they live together, there are no restrictions on the members of that household being together.

Clearly, all members of the household need to be able to be at home together, and there is no public health benefit in preventing the members of a household from being able to go out places together. Therefore, a single, larger household could go to a restaurant, café, bar or pub together as a group.

However, if some members of that household wish to meet up with other people in their extended household, each gathering should contain no more than six people aged 11 or over at any one time. Simples!

You can bust the “six” limit if you have an “excuse”.

One of the excuses is to “access educational services”, so you can attend a face to face class at university. My view continues to be that a students’ union (or a component society) can also run a (safe and socially distanced) event and that would be an “excuse” as the SU’s charitable objects are the “advancement of education of students for the institution” – but we’re waiting on clarification there.

Outdoors, it’s 30 people max. Again, there’s an education excuse to break the 30 limit.

There is also this remarkable sentence although it’s probably not advised for students to do this:

Each household within an HMO can enter into separate extended households, but because of the higher potential that coronavirus could be spread throughout the house, these households should be aware that they are potentially putting themselves and others at increased risk and they should think carefully about forming an extended household with people not living in their house.”

That seems to suggest that if you’re in an HMO of six students but the others are not your mates, you can form an extended household with someone from another house – but you would have to wait until someone goes out to have your friend round. And if you’re in an HMO of eight, even if one goes out you can’t have your friend round. You have to wait till three go out. And then what? The person who lives there isn’t allowed back into their house until the visitor has left.


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