Boris Johnson has apologised saying he “misspoke” when asked to clarify details of new tighter coronavirus restrictions in north-east England.
The rules, banning households from mixing in indoor settings, affect nearly two million people and are due to come into force at midnight.
However, confusion arose over whether this included outdoor settings such as pub beer gardens.
Labour said the PM was “grossly incompetent” for not knowing the rules.
Mr Johnson was asked to clarify the rules after a junior minister was unable to do so.
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When asked if people in the North East can still meet people from other households outside, such as in a pub garden, Mr Johnson said people should follow local guidance and urged them to use their common sense.
He went on to wrongly to talk about the rule of six.
“On the rule of six outside the areas where it, such as the North East where extra measures have been brought in, it’s six inside six outside,” Mr Johnson said.
“In the North East and other areas where extra tight measures have been bought in you should follow the guidance of local authorities but it’s, it’s six in a home, six in hospitality but as I understand it not six outside.”
Earlier, when asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if people could meet in pub gardens, education Minister Gillian Keegan said: “I’m sorry I can’t clarify that.
“I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m sure they can find out the answer to that question.”
When pressed, she said: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question.
“I’m sure there are many people who could. I don’t represent the North East.”
On Twitter, Mr Johnson later clarified that the new rules meant those in the North East “cannot meet people from different households in social settings indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and your home”.
“You should also avoid socialising with other households outside,” he added.
Mixing with other households in pub gardens or outdoor restaurant spaces will not be illegal, but goes against advice, the Department for Health and Social Care has said.
About two million people in Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and the County Durham council area have already been advised to avoid mixing.
But the new rules, from Wednesday, will be enforced with fines.
For those over 18 it will be £200 for a first offence, but halved if paid within 14 days.
A second offences will incur a £400 fine, which then doubles for each subsequent offence – up to a maximum of £6,400.
In areas not covered by extra restrictions in England, the rule of six – meaning social gatherings are limited to six people – applies in private homes, indoors and outdoors, and places such as pubs, restaurants, cafes and public outdoor spaces.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the PM was “grossly incompetent” for not knowing the rules, saying: “These new restrictions are due to come into force across huge parts of the country tonight. The government needs to get a grip.”