POLICE in Dorset have insisted they will only enforce the ‘rule of six’ as a last resort - as an interactive map has revealed 12 coronavirus ‘hotspots’ in Dorset, writes Alex Cutler.

New rules came into force in England yesterday, making any social gatherings of more than six people illegal. People face fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings and follows an increase in the number of daily positive cases.

Regulations enabling the enforcement of the rule were published late on Sunday night, around 30 minutes before they came into effect yesterday.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Metropolitan Police’s response to coronavirus, said officers will be deployed in every borough to patrol public spaces and respond swiftly to incidents where groups gather in large numbers.

But Dorset Police said the ‘rule of six’ would only be enforced as a last resort.

A spokesman said: “We still await the detail of the legislation and further guidance from the Government. Everyone has a role to play limiting the outbreak by following the regulations, including gathering in groups of up to six people both indoors and outside. Officers will continue to be out in communities - engaging, explaining and encouraging people to act responsibly. We will take enforcement action where necessary, but only as a last resort.”

The new rules were introduced as Public Health England has revealed 12 Middle Super Output Areas (MSOAs) - regions with an average population of 7,200 - with the most Covid-19 cases in Dorset. The data is updated every weekday, and the map shows the latest seven days for which complete data is available.

Latest data includes lab-confirmed positive cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) reported by September 11 with specimen dates between September 3-9.

Dorset had 12 shaded areas, with Swanage and Central Bournemouth MSOAs having the joint-highest number of cases with seven each. Elsewhere in the Dorset Council region, the ‘Owermoigne, Broadmayne and Winterbourne’ MSOA had three confirmed cases.

In east Dorset there were many more ‘hotspots’ to be found. Poole Town had six confirmed cases of Covid-19, as did Boscombe West.

‘Throop and Muscliffe’ had five while ‘Queens Park’, ‘East Cliff’, ‘Rossmore’ and ‘Southbourne West’ had four each.

‘Parley and Hampreston’ had three, as did Mudeford.

The interactive map can be found at https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/cases

The map is designed to show potential hotspots for the virus, with areas that have had between zero and two cases confirmed in that time frame not being shaded.