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Can you have sex during the coronavirus pandemic? We explain the risks and how to stay safe


The Prime Minister has been very clear, there are now only four acceptable reasons for leaving the house: shopping for basic necessities, taking one form of exercise per day, medical needs, or travelling to work if you’re a key worker. “A booty call with that guy you dated for three months last year” is very much not on the list. Nor is “a nightly visit to the nearby flat of the girlfriend you’re not ready to cohabitate with yet”. And don’t even think about going on a date, unless it’s virtual. 

For some, it’s the element of this lockdown business which is proving the hardest to accept. In fact there are almost as many Google searches at the moment for “can I have sex during coronavirus” as there are for advice on the lockdown.

It might seem callous to be concerned for your sex life in the midst of a pandemic. But if isolation has taught us anything so far, it’s that it is entirely possible to be in a constant state of panic for your loved ones’ safety, while simultaneously feeling furious about the loss of more frivolous things like the freedom to go on a date. 

If you’re not already living with your other half, the chances are you are staring down the barrel of a sexless few months (unless you’re planning on forging a new and exciting relationship with your housemate, in which case good luck to you). As for those already shacked up with someone, well, at least you can have some fun while in lockdown.

Or can you? If that Google search traffic is anything to go by, there seems to be some not inconsiderable confusion about whether or not you should be having sex during coronavirus, especially if one of you has symptoms. 

To date, the government has disseminated no official guidelines about sex – but it has broached the subject of relationships more broadly. Yesterday, Dr Jenny Harries said in a Downing Street press conference that now is a good time for fledgling couples to “test” a relationship by moving in together (a risky game indeed). Government advice also stipulates that any contact with people not living in the same household should be conducted while keeping at least two metres apart, and that includes “non-cohabiting partners”, who could pass on the deadly virus if they continued to visit each other. 

If you can maintain a sex life at two metres distance, then good luck to you. Maybe we’ll be buying your book when this is over. 

In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about how coronavirus is going to affect your sex life. 

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. 

If you are in a group at high risk of becoming seriously unwell, the advice is different. If you live with your partner, have been self-isolating for two weeks or more, and neither of you are exhibiting symptoms or have come into contact with anyone who is, then go for it. But only under these conditions.

Professor Claudia Estcourt, an expert from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, says: “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.” 

If you are considering meeting up with someone to have sex, don’t. It’s against the stipulations of the lockdown. As Prof. Estcourt says: “To comply with the government advice to prevent transmission, it’s really important that the only people you have sex with are those who live within your household. You should not be having sex if so doing means you have to breach government guidance not to mix households.” 

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 14 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? 

The virus is primarily spread through respiratory droplets. So while there is no evidence that it can be transmitted through genital secretions, it could be spread through saliva, so if either you or your partner are exhibiting symptoms or have come into contact with someone who is, then don’t have sex. 

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.”

How can I have sex while self-isolating alone? 

The short answer is no. The government has put us on lockdown to stop the spread of this deadly virus. And clearly that takes precedence over your sex life.

But all is not lost – the internet affords us plenty of ways to satisfy our needs from a safe distance. The dating app Hinge is encouraging users to enjoy its video chat mode, where you can have a virtual date rather than meeting in person. Make a connection and start exploring the possibilities of virtual sex. Sexting, erotic video calls and voice notes – a brave new world of virtual pleasure awaits. 

And remember: keep your sex toys as clean as your hands and surfaces, using soap and water. Whether or not you choose to sing two rounds of happy birthday while you do so is entirely up to you. 

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