Is having sex safe during social isolation?

Last updated:
With over a billion couples in lockdown across the globe, we ask the experts how to stay sexually safe

Need to speak to a GP today?

Book appointment

Getting together with friends, talking, hugging and having sex. They’re simple human pleasures that make life more bearable when the world gets scary.

It’s only natural when there’s a crisis that people turn to each emotionally and physically. Only this time, the risk of Covid-19 has turned every human interaction on its head – including our sex lives.

Now more than ever, it’s important to safeguard our most intimate relationships and look after our sexual health.

The new rules of safe sex

The Covid-19 outbreak has brought with it a whole new set of sexual circumstances. Here’s how to navigate through them.

For couples living together

‘Sex is just as risky as kissing, touching or shaking hands with someone,’ says London GP, Dr Gill Jenkins. ‘But, if you’re isolated together and not in contact with anybody else, then you can have sex as normal.

‘If one of you is a key worker (for example, a healthcare worker, retail or human resources, teacher or delivery driver) and still going out to work, where you’re exposed to other people and situations - it may put your partner at risk.

‘You may be maintaining scrupulous hygiene, washing your hands, using sanitizer, masks and gloves. But, ideally, if you can, in this situation you should be isolating anyway and avoiding sex with each other.’

‘You might want to consider sleeping in separate bedrooms as well as using your own plates, crockery and towels. You can sit in a room together, but keep your distance.’

For couples living apart

Couples in relationships but living apart should think twice before seeing eachother and having sex. ‘If you don’t live with your partner, having sex is risky,’ says Dr Jenkins. ‘While it might be tempting to carry on as normal, until testing comes in fully for everybody, we all have to assume we’re a risk.

‘You just have to think how you’d feel if you caught the virus and passed it onto a parent, friend, elderly or vulnerable person.’

For singles

‘If you’re single, this is definitely not the time to have sex with new people,’ says Jenkins. ‘Otherwise, you’re putting yourself and others at risk. Even if you live on your own - do you trust a new person enough to have sex with them and risk your health?’

Also, don’t forget, some people may be carriers and display no symptoms, while putting others at risk. ‘When it comes to keeping safe, you have to do the bottom line and keep your distance. If you’ve recently kissed or had sex with someone who you suspect has gone on to develop coronavirus, you might want to consider self-isolating.’

Remember the latest government measures state that you can only leave your home:

  • to shop for basic essentials – only when you really need to.
  • to do one form of exercise a day – such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with other people you live with.
  • for any medical need – for example, to visit a pharmacy or deliver essential supplies to a vulnerable person.
  • to travel to and from work – but only where this is absolutely necessary.

What should I do next?

  • The safest person to have sex with is someone you live with – Avoid close contact – including sex – with anyone outside your household.
  • If you usually meet partners online, take a break from in-person dates and sex Instead, consider virtual dating.
  • Do not have sex if your partner does not feel well or has new symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat, is suspected of (or has been diagnosed with) with Covid-19. You will both have to self- isolate.
  • Err on the side of caution If you’ve recently kissed, or had sex with someone who you suspect has gone on to develop coronavirus, consider self-isolating.

Reviewed by: Hemal Shah, Lead GP, Livi

Get expert advice and tips

Sign up to get the best of our health content delivered right to your inbox.