WEARING face masks and avoiding kissing during sex could help stop the spread of coronavirus, experts claim.
The new guidelines, released by a sexual health charity, offer tips on how to have safe sex as lockdown measures continue to be relaxed.
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The Terrence Higgins Trust says that the best way to stay protected is to avoid having sex with someone from outside your household.
Research by the charity found that 84 per cent of people hadn't had sex with someone outside their immediate household since lockdown began.
But with restrictions beginning to lift, campaigners recognise that asking people to refrain from sex entirely is no longer realistic.
To help people feel safe when they next decide to hop between the sheets, the charity is issuing fresh guidance with Covid-19 in mind.
It suggests trying masturbation, using sex toys and phone or cam sex as the safest options as they can be done without being in close proximity to anyone else.
The next safest option is sex with a partner within your household.
If that's not possible then the charity says it's sensible to limit the number to one partner – or as few partners as possible – and take other precautions to reduce the risk of Covid-19.
To limit the spread, they suggest not kissing, wearing a face mask during sex and favouring positions where you’re not face-to-face.
Washing your hands for more than 20 seconds, or using hand sanitiser, before and after sex will also reduce the risk, according to campaigners.
For those having sex with someone new, the experts advise talking to them about Covid-19 first.
Ask if they have any symptoms or have had in the previous two weeks – including a fever, cough, or loss of taste and smell – as well as anyone else in their household.
It's also worth asking if they or anyone else in their household has tested positive for Covid-19, the charity suggests.
They also strongly urge people not to have sex if either they or their partner are feeling unwell.
Sex is a very important part of life and asking people to avoid sex indefinitely isn’t realistic.
Dr Michael Brady, medical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Sex is a very important part of life and asking people to avoid sex indefinitely isn’t realistic.
"That’s why, as the pandemic continues, we all need to find ways to balance our need for sex and intimacy with the risks of the spread of Covid-19.
“We’re clear that abstaining from sex is the best way to protect yourself from coronavirus.
"But we hope by issuing this advice we will help people to manage the risks of Covid-19 while also being able to have and enjoy sex.”
The guidance, which will be continuously reviewed throughout the pandemic, can be found on the Terrence Higgins Trust website.
A free, confidential helpline THT Direct is also available for any additional questions about sex and managing the risk of Covid-19.
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