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Couples who don’t live together can now meet up for sex after changes to the coronavirus restrictions in England – but casual sex is still banned.

The guidance applies to “established” relationships, though it’s not clear what counts as established.

And the rules differ depending on where you are.

In local lockdown areas like Birmingham or much of Greater Manchester, social visits from people outside your household or support bubble are banned.

Household visits are not allowed in Scotland, but couples not living together are exempt.

In Wales, you can form an extended household, which means you’re allowed to meet indoors and have physical contact.

Staying safe

The Terrence Higgins Trust published advice in August suggesting people avoid kissing, wear a face covering and choose positions that aren’t face-to-face during sex.

They say their advice hasn’t changed much since then.

“Your best sexual partner during the COVID-19 pandemic is yourself or someone within your household and you should follow the Government guidelines about social distancing, hand washing and face coverings.

“However, it’s unrealistic to ask everyone to abstain from sex indefinitely, whether in ‘established’ relationships or not,” the trust says.

Masturbation, sex toys or having phone or online sex are recommended as the safest options.

If you are having sex with people outside of your household, it’s important to limit the number of partners, it says.

Like with everything at the moment, be aware of any Covid-19 symptoms you or your partner might have – and isolate if you have them.

If you are meeting someone new, the charity says to ask if they or anyone in their household have had symptoms or tested positive.

Does the virus spread through sex?

The virus can spread through saliva, mucus or the breath of those who have it, along with contact with hard surfaces.

“If you are going to touch each other’s genitals it’s likely that you will potentially be kissing at the same time – and we know the virus is passed through saliva,” Dr Alex George told Radio 1 Newsbeat in March.

Dr Alex is an A&E doctor and former Love Island contestant and says “any possibility of transfer of coronavirus – from your mouth to your hands, to genitals, to someone else’s nose or mouth” increases the risk of passing on coronavirus.

That’s why the Trust recommends not kissing, wearing a face mask during sex and favouring positions where you’re not face-to-face.

It adds the virus has been found in semen and poo, which is why you should use condoms and dams for oral sex to minimise risk.

And given we’re supposed to be doing it after most things – washing your hands for more than 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser before and after sex is recommended.

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All of this is not to say you should forget about your sexual health in general.

The charity says it’s important to get tested for sexually transmitted infections before starting to have sex again.

“Lockdown has meant that most people have had fewer sexual partners, if any at all, and now is the perfect time to be sure you don’t have an STI and to know what your HIV status is,” it says.

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