Hoseasons has reacted to the government’s ‘rule of six’ Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings in England by imposing a limit on numbers on each booking.

The domestic operator said customers will not be allowed to make use of a bookings of seven or more people in England from when the new rule applies on Monday (September 14).

The Hoseasons move came as the chair of the Professional Association of Self-Caterers warned that limits on the number of people that can holiday together would deal a “hammer blow” to the sector.

Alistair Handyside told the BBC that what matters now is what happens over the next few weeks ahead of the festive season.

“If we don’t get December with Christmas and New Year, which are peak weeks, we will see carnage, we honestly will,” he warned.

Matt Fox, co-founder of BigCottages.com, said there was a sharp drop in traffic to the website when the new rules were announced.

He added: “It’s a real shame. The sector was just starting to find its feet again and had the rug pulled out from under it.”

Limited exemptions outlined by Hoseasons include those from a single household or a single household with an additional person as part of a support bubble.

Larger group bookings can go ahead if the number of people associated with them is reduced.

Alternatively, holidays can be cancelled with refunds or vouchers towards new bookings at a later date.

“In order that we can prioritise providing assistance to customers with imminent bookings, we are initially contacting affected customers with bookings with arrival dates up to 3 October,” the company said.

“Rest assured that if you have an affected booking beyond this date and the new restrictions are still in place, we will be in touch with the options available to you.”

Which? Travel urged domestic holiday accommodation providers to ensure refunds are paid for trips forced to be cancelled “to prevent anyone being left out of pocket for obeying the law” as a result of the new legislation announced by prime minister Boris Johnson.