LONDON - Britons who bump into their friends in the street and stop to have a chat could be fined for ‘mingling’ if there are more than six people present, the home secretary has claimed.

As of yesterday, groups of more than six are banned from meeting indoors or outdoors, including in pubs, restaurants, private homes and parks. Anyone who flouts the rules could be dispersed by police or handed fines of between £100 and £3,200.

But according to Priti Patel, even those who spot their friends by chance and stop to mingle could also face punishment. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Patel said: ‘Mingling is people coming together. That is my definition of mingling.’

Asked if two families of four stopping to talk in a park would be banned, Patel responded: ‘I think it is absolutely mingling.’ The home secretary suggested even a socially distanced chat would be breaking the rules, adding: ‘The rule of six is about making sure that people are being conscientious and not putting other peoples’ health at risk and people can undertake their own judgement, exercise their judgement – wearing masks, social distancing etc etc.

‘And people have been doing that anyway. People have been incredible I think.’ However, the government regulation regarding the ban on ‘mingling’ only applies to events organised by charities, businesses and public bodies.(FA)