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Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would call the police on her neighbours if she saw them breaking coronavirus rules.

The coronavirus “rule of six” came into force in England on Monday with people now risking fines of up to £3,200 for breaking the new restrictions.

Anyone meeting in groups of more than six in both indoor and outdoor settings is now breaking the law. It comes amid a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus infections.

Asked if you should call the police if your neighbour is gathering in a large group in the garden, the Home Secretary replied: “That’s your call. That’s a personal choice of yours.”

“The government advice is pretty clear. You could call the police if you choose to do that.”

Asked what she would do, she replied: “If I saw something that I thought was inappropriate, then quite frankly I would effectively call the police. Or if it was in a social setting as well.”

She added: “It’s not about dobbing in neighbours. I think it’s all about us taking personal responsibility.

“If there was a big party taking place it would be right to call the police.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse caused outrage on Monday when he called on people to contact their local force if they suspected their neighbours were breaching the rules.

The Secretary of State told Sky News: “The fundamental principles have not changed from day one of coronavirus.

“So police officers on the front line if they see you out and about if you are with other friends, colleagues etcetera in a small group of around six people no more they will effectively come up to you, have a conversation, engage you, explain the coronavirus rules.

“But of course if you’re not complying they will effectively enforce a fixed penalty notice.

“That is a fine – that is if you are being non-compliant. I will emphasise that’s down to non-compliance.”

Aside from limited exemptions including work and education, police will be able to disperse gatherings that breach the rule.

They can also hand individuals £100 fines, doubling up to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offenders.

Those who host raves or large unlawful events will continue to risk £10,000 fines.

Ms Patel also suggested that stopping for a chat in the street with someone you know counts as “mingling” which breaks the new rules.

Asked if two families of four stopping for a chat on the way to the park constituted “mingling”,she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is mingling.

“I think it is absolutely mingling. You have got to put this in the context of coronavirus and keeping distance, wearing masks.

“The rule of six is about making sure that people are being conscientious and not putting other people’s health at risk.”

Ms Patel added: “Mingling is people coming together. That is my definition of mingling.”

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