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expert comment about COVID-19 and having sex while either socially distancing or self-isolating with symptoms

There have been questions in the media about whether people can have sex whilst socially distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak.


Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia, said:

“In the last couple of days, I have been asked about whether or not people can still have sex when either social distancing or self-isolating during the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Public Health England has recently updated its advice to people who live in households where one of the members have a possible COVID-19 infection.  Although the advice does not address the issue of whether or not you can have sex in such circumstances, my interpretation of the guidance is as follows:

“If you or your partner are self-isolating because one of you have symptoms (cough or fever) then providing you live together then you do not necessarily need to give up sex for the 7 day period recommended for individual cases to self-isolate.  However, if you partner is in one of the vulnerable groups because of age (>70), pre-existing disease or she is pregnant then you need to stay away from them as much as possible and this would mean avoid sex for the first 7 days.  If your partner does not live with you then they should be staying away.

“The evidence is unclear about whether vigorous exercise is bad for you when you are acutely unwell with fever or pneumonia.  Nevertheless, it would probably be best to avoid sex whilst you feel poorly.  Whether you do or do not still have sex during this period remember to wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds and avoid touching your or your partner’s face with unwashed hands.

“If you are free of symptoms but are social distancing, then there are no reasons why you cannot continue to have sex with your partner when you live together.  If your sex life is rather more bohemian and you cannot get to have sex without mixing with some/many other people, this mixing is advised against so stay at home.  This is especially important if you are in one of the at-risk groups.

“Even during sex, the main risk probably comes from being close face to face through droplet spread, through kissing and touching each other’s faces.  I am not aware of any evidence to date that the infection can be spread through vaginal intercourse per se.  So please continue to wash your hands regularly and especially before sex.”


PHE Stay at home: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection


PHE Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK


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