On Jan 4, the Prime Minister plunged Britain into a third national lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread of the new variant of coronavirus. Under the new restrictions, people will only be able to leave their homes for limited reasons, with measures expected to stay in place for weeks.
This means that, when it comes to sex, things aren’t going to get better anytime soon.
In an address to the nation, Boris Johnson said the new coronavirus variant – which is 50 per cent to 70 per cent more transmissible – was spreading in a “frustrating and alarming” manner. Although support bubbles remain permissible, you are only eligible to form one if you live alone, if your household includes a child under the age of one, or if you are a single adult living with one or more children under the age of 18.
So, we hate to be the one to break this to you- but if your partner lives in a separate household, sex is banned for the time being. Here is what we know…
What are the rules for the new national lockdown?
As of January 4, Boris Johnson put the country under harsh new lockdown restrictions. This replaces the four-tier system which was put in place on December 19.
Under the new restrictions, which are similar to those set out in March last year, the Government has strengthened its “stay at home” message, allowing people in England to leave their residence only for five legally permitted reasons.
- To work if it is “impossible” to work from home
- To shop for essentials
- To exercise
- To provide care
- For a medical appointment
You are allowed to exercise outdoors with one person outside of your household, although this should be limited to once a day and performed locally. So if you don’t currently cohabit with your partner, a brisk walk around the local park might be your best chance of seeing them. But be warned; under the harsh new restrictions, you are not allowed to sit down and have a drink together in the park. You should also keep two metres apart from the person you are exercising with to avoid passing on the deadly virus, so there won’t be an opportunity for cuddling.
And as for overnight stays? They are a no-go. Households which are not in a support bubble are not allowed to mix with each other in any circumstances, so if you live apart from your partner it’s likely that your sex life is going to suffer over the next few months. Police will have legal powers to enforce through fines and dispersing orders. Fines will stay at their current level of £200 for a first offence.
Can you have sex during the coronavirus outbreak?
In general, a couple living together can have sex if they both feel healthy, are not in an at-risk group, and have not come into contact with anyone with symptoms.
But what about if you’re in an ‘established-relationship’ but don’t live together?
Currently, the severe restrictions mean that sex with anybody beyond your household is banned. Meanwhile, household visits are not allowed in Scotland which is also under a national lockdown which is expected to last until Spring. Wales is also likely to remain in lockdown for the rest of January as the first minister said he does not “see much headroom for change”.
Measures in England are expected to stay in place until mid February. If the UK returns to a four-tier system again, then your sex life will depend entirely on where you and your partner live. If you are in an ‘established relationship’ you will still be unable to have sex with your partner if you live separately in tiers 2 and 3, but this doesn’t apply to those who already live together.
However, Professor Claudia Escourt adds: “I think the key issue is that, as with any transmissible infection, the more of it there is circulating in the population, the more likely we are to come across someone with it and the higher the individual risk of catching it ourselves.
“Numbers of people with Covid are rising again so our individual risk will also go up, whether or not we are having sex.”
If restrictions do ease again, she advises that people should follow the same measures that were in place last year. Speaking previously to The Telegraph in June, she said: “It is safe for people in a household which has been self-isolating for over 14 days to have sex.
But remember that every time someone goes out of their household that person has the potential to acquire the virus. You will need to keep resetting the 14 day clock if one of you is in contact with someone with coronavirus or develops symptoms.”
It’s important to remember that these rules will vary from place to place, once the tier system is reintroduced.
In August, the Terrence Higgins Trust published advice suggesting people avoid kissing, wear a face covering and choose positions that aren’t face-to-face during sex. The organisation maintains that the safest form of sex is with yourself.
Indeed, this is a position echoed by health professionals in Canada. Dr Theresa Tam, the country’s Chief Public Health Officer, recommended people don’t kiss, avoid face-to-face closeness and wear a mask during sex to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
If you are in a group at high risk of becoming seriously unwell, then you should be extra careful with how you approach sex.
Can you have sex if one of you has coronavirus or has come into contact with someone who has?
If you or your partner is exhibiting symptoms, then the chances are sex is going to be the last thing on your mind. A fever and dry cough aren’t exactly aphrodisiacs.
If you, someone you live with, or someone you’ve had sex with recently has had symptoms of Covid-19 then you should self-isolate for 10 days to prevent further transmissions. This means no physical contact, which obviously includes sex.
Prof. Estcourt says: “We know that Covid-19 is transmitted most easily between household contacts. Transmission is via droplet spread and surfaces which have been contaminated.
“The chances are that if you’re in the same household you are probably way more likely to acquire Covid-19 through usual household activities than through sex, because day-to-day contact is happening all the time.
“However, it would be fair to assume mouth kissing confers a high risk of transmission. And if someone is self-isolating because they are either exhibiting symptoms or have potentially been exposed to the virus, then they shouldn’t be having sex during the isolation period at all.”
Is Covid-19 sexually transmissible?
Dr Carlos E. Rodríguez-Díaz, associate professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University, told The Telegraph: “There is no evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted via sexual intercourse; either vaginal or anal.
“However, kissing is a very common practice during sex, and the virus can be transmitted via saliva. Therefore, the virus can be transmitted by kissing.”
Can you go on a date with with someone you’re in a relationship with after the lockdown?
As of January 4th, households are banned from mixing indoors so you won’t be able to see your partner for sex or a date. But for couples who do live together, or are in a support bubble, nothing changes.
However, if you live locally to your partner there may be an opportunity to get creative with your dates. You are allowed to meet one person from another household outdoors for exercise, so for now, a couple’s jog around your local park may have to suffice.
Being separated from a partner is challenging, acknowledges Dr Sheri Jacobson, clinical director of Harley Therapy: “One of the foundations of a close relationship for many people – not all, but many – is physical closeness,” she says. Losing this physical proximity is “the biggest challenge.”
And being separated during a pandemic poses even greater problems, as “there currently may be more to worry about – hence the need and the longing to be able to connect physically,” says Ammanda Major, relationship counsellor at Relate.