The coronavirus Rule of Six descended into farce today as people ignored the new restrictions - after Downing Street said police would not fine lawbreakers.
As infections of the deadly bug kept rising, No 10 appeared to foil its own efforts to curb the problem by admitting no punishments would be handed out by officers in the coming days.
It was despite the Prime Minister announcing the regulations would come in days ago, giving the public ample time to get used to the idea.
Cases of coronavirus have been increasing by at least 3,000 every 24 hours and some experts have warned drastic action needed to be taken.
But after a day of ministers playing down any enforcement, followed by a Downing Street comment confirming the soft touch, some people decided to make their own decisions.
In Bath in Somerset pictures showed 14 massed in a river seemingly unaware they were hardly social distancing.
The story was the same at Pontefract racecourse in West Yorkshire where a group of ten gathered to enjoy the hot weather.
And an anti-mask protest in Nottingham unsurprisingly saw a number of people ignore the new safety rules.
Samantha Jones, 42, from Grimsby, who lost her job as a shop worker because of the Covid lockdown earlier this year, was today mixing with more than six people.
She fumed: 'If the government think I'm going to obey the Rule of Six then they can think again.'
It comes after Boris Johnson sent shockwaves through nation last week when he announced the restrictions, the first widespread tightening of lockdown since March.
However, the rules in England are tougher than in Wales and Scotland, where under-12s are being exempted from the crackdown.
In another day of dramatic coronavirus developments:Labour's Sir Keir Starmer has gone into self-isolation after a member of his household displayed coronavirus symptom, just hours after he took a phone-in in the LBC radio studios; England records just one more Covid-19 death in hospital in preliminary toll as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland record no new victims; Union leader threatens strike action over Government plans to get four-in-five civil servants back to work by the end of September; Wetherspoons reveals 66 workers have tested positive for coronavirus with outbreaks reported at 50 of its 861 pubs; Rishi Sunak 'could delay the Budget until January' amid fears a second wave of coronavirus this autumn could cause more havoc to the economy; Britain bets on another coronavirus vaccine with £1.3billion investment in Scottish factory which will manufacture 190million doses of Valneva's jab; Prof Chris Whitty 'told off' chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance for pushing too hard for a lockdown in March, confidential emails reveal; Hospital admissions for seven major non-Covid illnesses, including heart attacks, slump by 173,000 - as GPs are ordered to see patients face-to-face.
People enjoy the water at Warleigh Weir on the river Avon near Bath in Somerset as the Rule of Six restrictions become law
Primrose Hill in north London saw groups over over six join together for a day out in the sunshine on the Rule's first test
A group of 12 in Scotland looked like they were trying to social distance in parts, but still fell foul of the new regulations
No safe six: a group of seven people watch a friend play football in the Autumn sunshine on Bournemouth beach in Dorset
Pontefract race course saw ten youths mass on the grass on the first day of being told to keep to groups of just six
Criticising the rules, Ms Jones added: 'I'm standing here with four adults and three children and the restrictions come into force today so technically I guess I'm breaking the rules.
'But I've got five children, three of who live with me, and I've got two grandkids. There is no way that I'm going to stop my kids seeing their grandparents or stop my elder daughter from bringing my grandchildren round. It's complete nonsense.
'My sister has eight children and because in England - unlike Wales or Scotland - children count as part of your bubble of six people, she won't be able to have anyone round. That doesn't seem fair at all.
'So If people can still mix in pubs, restaurants and at work and school then I'm going to carry on seeing members of my family even if it means breaking this Rule of Six. Realistically the police aren't going to stop everyone are they?
'And there is absolutely no way that I'm going to snoop on anyone doing the same!'
A group larger than six sit together on Portobello beach after the Scottish Government implicate the Rule of Six
Brighton beach looked very busy with groups larger than six seen sitting near the seashore on the sunny day
Leeds saw groups of larger than six also meet up despite the strict regulations being put into place today
In Nottingham anti-maskers failed to follow the Rule of Six in an admittedly unsurprising first day flouting of the regulations
Police attempted to remonstrate with the protesters but their advice and warnings appeared to fall on deaf ears
FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLDS
OFF: All gatherings of more than six people will be illegal, putting the traditional family Christmas at risk.
A family of five will be allowed to meet only one grandparent at a time, while families of six or more will be banned from meeting anyone.
ON: The only exemption is if a household or a support bubble is made up of more than six people.
Support bubbles allow adults who live by themselves – as well as single parents – to join up with one other household.