Boris Johnson is facing a Tory civil war over his 'rule of six' coronavirus crackdown as Cabinet ministers and senior backbenchers urged the Prime Minister to make children exempt from the policy.
A string of senior ministers opposed the measure at a crunch meeting earlier this week when it was adopted, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak among those to speak out.
A Cabinet source said the rule was opposed by every member of the Prime Minister's coronavirus strategy committee apart from Matt Hancock.
The Health Secretary is said to have driven the decision to adopt the restriction, supported by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
The move has prompted growing anger within the Conservative Party with Mr Johnson under mounting pressure to change tack and follow Scotland and Wales by making children exempt from the crackdown.
Tory MPs believe a failure to remove children from the policy will result in voters accusing Mr Johnson of effectively cancelling Christmas.
Senior Tory figures are also furious that the rule is being introduced without any debate in the House of Commons.
They blasted the Government for 'imposing the most profound restrictions on people's personal liberty and family life' without giving MPs any say in the matter.
Meanwhile, analysts warned the rule could cost retailers and the hospitality sector billions of pounds as people cancel parties and big family get-togethers.
Boris Johnson is facing a growing backlash over his 'rule of six' restriction as Tory MPs demand children are made exempt from the policy
Rishi Sunak is said to have pushed for the limit to be at least eight and Business Secretary Alok Sharma is thought to have argued for a higher figure
The 'rule of six' will ban gatherings in England of seven or more people from Monday. The policy applies both indoors and outdoors.
Nicola Sturgeon is also introducing a rule of six in Scotland but children under the age of 12 will be exempt.
In Wales a similar rule will be implemented but it will only apply to gatherings indoors.
First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce the plans today but the new rule will not apply to children aged 11 or under.
Groups of up to 30 people will continue to be allowed to meet outdoors in Wales.
One Cabinet minister told The Telegraph it is 'worth considering' making children exempt from the policy in England so that they can still see their grandparents at Christmas.
'I am not convinced the Prime Minister is in favour of it but he feels he has got to do it,' a Cabinet minister said.
''I don't understand why we are moving to more draconian powers. The country has been so well-behaved.'
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith is leading backbench calls for the Government to change its approach.
He said: 'Kids should not be counted below a certain age. I would prefer the rule to apply to six adults.
'We know how this virus is being spread, and it's by young people going out and partying in large groups, so target them instead.'
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, echoed a similar sentiment as he also hit out at the way in which the rules were announced.
He said: 'If this rule had been debated by Parliament it would have been an opportunity to highlight some of the obvious errors such as the failure to exclude children.'
He added: 'The government are imposing the most profound restrictions on people's personal liberty and family life.
'Why has there not been a debate and a vote in the House of Commons this week?'
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told The Sun that if the rule is still in place in the run up to Christmas it will be 'one of the most damaging things the Conservative Party has ever done'.
'Boris must save Christmas — he's not The Grinch,' he said.
A source said the rule of six measure for England had been pushed for by Mr Hancock.
Coronavirus hospital admissions could start to rise in the UK in three weeks, data from other European countries suggests. When Spain, France and Belgium hit 18 cases per 100,000 (which the UK did on Sunday) they then saw admissions increase by up to four-fold
'Everyone apart from Hancock wanted to set the limit on groups at eight or more,' the source said.
'Even the PM was initially cautious about taking the limit all the way down to six. The majority view was that this level of social distancing will have a huge impact on people's lives and the economy. But Hancock got his way.'
Announcing the crackdown on Wednesday, Mr Johnson insisted it was needed to keep virus cases under control even though it 'broke his heart' to keep families apart.
Downing Street last night denied the Prime Minister had been steered into the decision by Mr Hancock and the scientific advisers. 'The PM wasn't talked round by anyone,' said an insider.
But multiple sources confirmed that ministers on the high-powered committee had disagreed about how far to cut the 30-person legal limit on gatherings. 'I wouldn't characterise it as a row, but it's fair to say there was a vigorous debate,' said one.
Mr Sunak is said to have pushed for the limit to be at least eight and Business Secretary Alok Sharma is thought to have argued for a higher figure. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is also said to have raised concerns.
A source close to Michael Gove denied claims that he wanted the limit at eight.
The rule of six has angered MPs, alarmed business and put hopes of a traditional family Christmas on hold.
It replaces a raft of complex guidelines and laws which police said were impossible to enforce.
The new rule means groups of more than six people can be broken up by police, who will have the power to hand out £100 fines.
The law applies indoors and outdoors, including in private homes. Only workplaces, schools and a small number of events such as weddings and funerals are exempt.
The coronavirus committee's membership comprises the Prime Minister, Mr Sunak, Dominic Raab, Mr Gove, Mr Hancock, Mr Sharma, and Priti Patel. Grant Shapps also attended the meeting on Tuesday
The data presented at the press conference show that cases are still low relative to some other European countries - but emphasised the impact of higher testing among the younger generation
The rate of infection per 100,000 people in the UK has remained very low among younger children, despite rising among teenagers and young adults
Although cases have risen, the positive test rate - how many people test positive out of all those tested - has not reached levels seen during the pandemic. This gives an indication that some cases are due to more focused testing in hotspots
At the same time, cases in over 80 year olds have dropped drastically since the height of the pandemic, when they made up the majority of Covid-19 cases, and have halved since July. Infections have stayed stable among those in their 60s and 70s, while very slightly increasing in those between the ages of 40 to 59 years old
Children are included in the rule, making most family get-togethers impossible. A source close to Mr Hancock last night said it was 'wrong to say he was the main driver' of the clampdown.
An ally added: 'He believes the worst thing you could do to the economy is let this virus get out of control again.'
The coronavirus committee's membership comprises the Prime Minister, Mr Sunak, Dominic Raab, Mr Gove, Mr Hancock, Mr Sharma, and Priti Patel. Mr Shapps also attended the meeting on Tuesday.
A source close to Mr Sharma played down reports he had fought the rule of six, saying he accepted the decision. Treasury sources said the Chancellor supported the restriction. But both men are known to have repeatedly pushed for a faster reopening of the economy in a bid to head of the risk of an even deeper recession.
Ministers fear that without tight restrictions now the epidemic could spiral out of control again.
A Government source said: 'We are four weeks behind France. They didn't take strong enough measures immediately and now they are screwed. We are not going to let that happen here.'
Business have raised concerns about the new rule. Mike Cherry of the Federation of Small Businesses said: 'This fresh round of responsibilities will take time, money and manpower away from day to day business activity at an incredibly challenging time.'
Boris hit for six as Sturgeon swoops in to 'save Xmas'
By Daniel Martin Policy Editor for the Daily Mail
Boris Johnson's 'rule of six' was savaged last night after Nicola Sturgeon made a bid to save Christmas north of the border by exempting children.
Tory MPs and business groups lined up to accuse the Prime Minister of a gross overreaction to the virus threat and disproportionate restrictions on family life.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced social gatherings of more than six would be banned by law. With the restrictions likely to last until Spring, it risks spoiling Christmas for millions of families.
Boris Johnson's 'rule of six' was savaged last night after Nicola Sturgeon made a bid to save Christmas north of the border by exempting children
Yesterday, business groups warned that the new rule – which takes effect from Monday – would hit profits and could seriously jeopardise the drive to get more people to return to the office.
Signs of immunity vanish quickly from seriously-ill coronavirus patients in less than a month after they are discharged from hospital, a study has found.
Researchers looking at antibodies – substances in the blood that develop immunity against the virus – have found they drop off sharply once a patient as recovered.
The finding is worrying news for hopes that people will become immune to Covid-19 after having it for the first time.
Most people who were sent home from hospital after having the disease did show signs of antibodies – suggesting their bodies had learned to protect themselves from the virus – but they were not strong.
Some 81 per cent of patients had the antibodies, the Chinese study found, but only a 'small portion' of them had any with the ability to neutralise – or kill – the virus.
Whether people become immune to Covid-19 after having it remains a mystery.
There are signs that the body learns to fend it off but also growing numbers of 'credible' cases where people get reinfected.
If the body cannot retain antibodies over the long-term it could mean that a vaccine may not offer permanent protection, as scientists and politicans around the world are hoping one will.
Scientists at Nanjing University Medical School in China monitored 19 non-severe and seven severely ill Covid-19 patients for a month and three weeks to determine the progression of their antibody response.
They found that the patients had a varying level of antibody responses, with only a 'small portion' developing a potent level of neutralisation activity. The scientists did not say exactly how many people had this.
The study indicates that three to four weeks after hospital discharge, the neutralising activity of antibodies from recovered patients declined significantly.
Pub chiefs said the draconian rules could lead to a 'cooling of confidence' at a time when many were facing a struggle to break even.
And Tory MPs warned Health Secretary Matt Hancock that the restrictions could end up being 'worse than the disease itself'.
Even some scientists who backed the 'rule of six' suggested that younger children could have been safely exempted.
But anger was intensified after Miss Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, said she would exempt children under 12 from a similar law north of the border – because they are at lower risk of transmitting the disease.It means grandparents will be able to spend the festive season with their grandchildren in Scotland, but not in England.
People in Wales will also only be able to meet in groups of six or under indoors from Monday, First Minister Mark Drakeford will confirm on Friday. The rule will not apply to children aged 11 and under and people will also still be able to meet up in groups of up to 30 outdoors, as long as they maintain social distancing.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful backbench 1922 committee, accused ministers of acting 'arbitrarily' by not holding a vote in Parliament before changing the rules. And he demanded that young children be exempt to prevent grandparents facing the 'appalling choice' of which grandchildren to spend Christmas with.
Fellow MP Steve Baker suggested voters may refuse to obey, saying: 'Given the rules in Scotland, it becomes even more difficult to sustain the rules the Prime Minister has chosen in England. We have got to get out of this dystopian nightmare as soon as possible.' But last night the Government was not backing down, with one source asking how the Scottish police would be able to differentiate between children aged 11 and 12.
In the Commons yesterday, Mr Hancock said the restrictions would not be kept in place 'any longer than we have to'.
Sir Graham said England should follow Scotland's example.
'Exempting young children who are far less likely to catch the virus or spread it is a sensible mitigation and one which could have important benefits for families who are otherwise faced with appalling choices such as which set of grandchildren to see at Christmas,' he said.
Tory MP David Jones said: 'There is certainly an uptick [in cases]. But it is not an uptick across the country as a whole.
'There are some parts of the country such as Devon, Dorset, where there is very little virus activity at all.'
Christopher Snowdon of the Institute for Economic Affairs said the Government had 'over-reacted'. He added: 'Local lockdowns or local restrictions are still the best way forward.'
Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: 'The rule of six could knock consumer confidence and trust in public transport, which will have an impact on many firms.'
Mike Cherry, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: 'This fresh round of responsibilities will take time, money and manpower away from day to day business activity at an incredibly challenging time.'
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: 'This restriction comes at a delicate point in our pub recovery after a steady start this summer.'Here we go again: British tourists face weekly mad scramble to get home by 4am Saturday as Portugal and Hungary are taken off quarantine exemption list… but no-lockdown Sweden is now ruled SAFE
Portugal and Hungary have today been removed from the quarantine exemption list, meaning holidaymakers must now rush home or face two-weeks in isolation.
Those arriving in England from French Polynesia and Reunion must also self-isolate for 14-days from 4am on Saturday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
A travel corridor between Portugal and the UK had only been opened on August 22, but the popular holiday destination has now been removed after a rise in coronavirus cases.
The Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores are exempt from the new rule, under the Government's plan to impose regional travel corridors.
Both Portugal and Hungary have seen daily cases rise above 20 per 100,000 people, figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show.
Portugal and Hungary have today been removed from the quarantine exemption list, meaning holidaymakers must rush home or face a two-week quarantine. Pictured: The Algarve
Those arriving in England from two further countries must also now self-isolate for 14-days from 4am on Saturday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. Pictured: Budapest
Portugal has seen a steady rise in cases since it was removed from the quarantine list three weeks ago, now reporting a total of 1,852 deaths amid 62,126 confirmed infections.
It saw 646 new cases of Covid-19 yesterday, the nation's highest figure since April.
Wales and Scotland had already imposed their own self-isolation rules on Portugal, with Nicola Sturgeon also recently mandating 14-day isolation for arrivals from Greece and Wales adding six Greek islands to its list.
Downing Street's switch-up of the quarantine exemption list comes after Mr Shapps last week insisted there would be no changes to English travel corridors.
Sources told MailOnline at the time that although Portugal was above the 'trigger' threshold for cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, that appeared to be because they were carrying out more tests.
Portugal has seen a steady rise in cases since it was removed from the quarantine list on August 22, now reporting a total of 1,852 deaths amid 62,126 confirmed infections. Pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow
A travel corridor between Portugal and the UK had only been opened a few weeks ago, but the popular holiday destination has now been removed after a rise in coronavirus cases
The Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores are exempt from the new rule, which also imposes two-week quarantines for those arriving in England from Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion
A total of 34 fines have been issued to travellers for breaching quarantine rules after arriving in the UK, new figures reveal.
Police forces have handed out 20 fixed penalty notices in England, while the Border Force has given out 14 across the UK up to September 7, according to the data released by the Home Office on Thursday.
The 14-day self-isolation policy for UK arrivals was introduced on June 8 for people returning to or visiting the UK from countries not on the exemption list.
In England, people can be fined £1,000 for failing to self-isolate and up to £3,200 for not providing accurate contact details.
Figures show 1,966,394 spot checks have been carried out on passengers to ensure they have filled out passenger locator forms, including contact details, passport number and address while in the country.
Public Health England (PHE) carries out further compliance checks on a random sample of travellers, resident in England and Northern Ireland, to check they are self-isolating.
The service has made a total of 149,579 calls and text messages - each person can be called up to three times on subsequent days and sent a text.
Successful contact, where the traveller has been spoken to or responded to a text, was made 66,773 times with 64,800 people confirming they were self-isolating.
'The rate of positives per test has actually gone down,' one senior source said.
The Government also announced yesterday that Sweden has been added to the 'safe' travel list.
The new air bridge will come into force at 4am on September 12 after the Scandinavian nation saw a drop in cases - despite not enforcing a lockdown.
Stockholm's strategy of 'herd immunity' - once backed by Downing Street - to allow the disease to spread through the population, was criticised as reckless but new data increasingly vindicates the decision.
Sweden currently has 13 patients in intensive care, by comparison the United Kingdom has 843 patients in hospital, 80 of them on ventilators.
Furthermore, Sweden has had an average of just one death per day for the last 10, compared to 9.3 fatalities each day in the UK over the same period.
Announcing the changes on Twitter today, Mr Shapps said: 'Data shows we need to remove PORTUGAL (minus the AZORES and MADEIRA), HUNGARY, FRENCH POLYNESIA and REUNION from the