People need to “be careful” about the risk of coronavirus when it comes to having sex outside of “established relationships”, health secretary Matt Hancock has warned.
It comes after the government relaxed rules to allow couples in England who are in “established relationships” to no longer socially distance if they do not live together.
Ministers relaxed restrictions earlier this week which prevented partners from different households from kissing, holding hands or any other type of touching during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asked about the government’s guidance that only “established” couples should be having sex, he told Sky News: “In these rules that we have to bring in, there have to be boundaries, to coin a phrase.
“If you’re saying that two households shouldn’t mix, which we are in some parts of the country – in the North East, the North West, in Scotland, in parts of Wales – then you have to then define what is the boundary of that.”
He added: “I think we should stick to the letter of it, which is it is okay in an established relationship.
“It just means that people need to be careful, they need to be sensible.
“If you’re in a relationship that is well established… what it means is people realising that coming into close contact with people from other households, then that is how the virus spreads.”
Mr Hancock joked that “I know I am in an established relationship” with his wife.
The relaxation of the rules came into force from Tuesday, September 22, and is a sign the government is aware of the tough toll the pandemic has had on the country’s mental health.
Information published by the Department of Health and Social Care said: "People in an established relationship do not need to socially distance.”
But couples in "the early stages of a relationship" were still told to "take particular care to follow the guidance on social distancing".
The guidance added: "If you intend to have close contact with someone, you should discuss how you can help to prevent risks of transmission as a couple, for example, by ensuring you are both avoiding close contact with people you do not live with."
The Department of Health has not clarified what constitutes an “established relationship”.