As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, and some believe the testing system is “falling apart,” the UK government has introduced a new law specifically for England, which outlaws most mass gatherings. The new “rule of six” is a result of the recent spike in cases, as the number of confirmed positive tests in the UK rose by 3,105 in a 24-hour period.
The newly-passed law prevents members of different households from meeting in groups larger than six. However, exemptions have been made for those partaking in volunteer services, some protests, and organised sport. Members of sport clubs or teams may gather in groups of up to 30, however this was clarified only minutes before the law was officially passed.
HuffPost UK believes that the UK Cabinet’s Special COVID-19 Operational Committee had organised a meeting, with the intention of discussing “Exemption: hunting and shooting.” However, the meeting was “abruptly cancelled beforehand,” as officials learnt the meeting would be discussed through other means. Some claim the meeting was abandoned, as to prevent any internal objections, while another source claims the entire issue delayed the legislation’s publication.
“Outdoor activity” was instead included in the list of exemptions; within that category came “country sports.” Such examples include: grouse and pheasant shooting, hunting, and paintballing. Thus far, it is unclear whether or not fox hunting is permitted.
Former Tory Minister, Tracey Crouch, criticised the government for its lack of clarity: “Many will find this topsy-turvy prioritisation from government,” she explained, “I’ve had queries about choirs, community bands, addiction therapy groups, all of whom would be worthy of an exemption and instead we are scrabbling around prioritising shooting animals. It’s bonkers.”
Others, including Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard, believe the Conservatives should be focusing on coronavirus testing, rather than introducing “one rule for the cabinet and their mates and another for the rest of us.”
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) issued a statement on their website which clarifies the government’s position. Ian Bell, CEO of the organisation, believes: “The government’s decision to allow shooting to continue in its current format in England is the right one,” before claiming that it improves the “rural economy.” The government explained the move, as “outdoor activity is safer from a transmission perspective,” although highlighted the need to take “safety measures.”