23 Sep Coronavirus: Social distancing rules relaxed for couples in ‘established relationships’ | Politics News
Couples in England who are in “established relationships” will no longer have to socially distance if they do not live together, the government has confirmed.
Ministers have relaxed the restrictions that prevented partners from different households from kissing, holding hands or any other form of touching during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a sign the government recognises the fresh rules may take a tough toll on people’s mental health, new instructions have been issued exempting some lovers – effective from Tuesday 22 September.
“People in an established relationship do not need to socially distance,” information published by the Department of Health and Social Care said.
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.”
But some social media users still had questions about whether the exemption applied to them.
“What exactly qualifies as an established relationship? Are you sunk if you weren’t dating by March?” one asked.
The Department of Health did not reply to a request to clarify what constitutes an “established relationship”.
Other exemptions for social distancing include if you live together or are in a legally-permitted support bubble.
The latest advice also concedes “it may not always be possible or practicable to maintain social distancing when providing care to a young child, or person with a disability or health condition”.
It suggests: “You should still limit close contact as much as possible when providing these types of care, and take other precautions such as washing hands and opening windows for ventilation.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman was asked if it was within the law to have a one-night stand, and said “people need to behave sensibly” but “in the eyes of the law it’s not an area in which any announcement has been made in relation to the law”.
He also corrected the foreign secretary, who said earlier people could only order food in a fast-food chain from the table – confirming that rule only applies to “licenced premises” with exemptions for businesses such as cinemas.
And the spokesman said chauffeur-driven cars are exempt from the rule passengers must wear masks in taxis – as long as the driver can work in a safe way.
He also confirmed that at christenings, the baby counts among the six able to attend.
The question of what contact couples who live apart could have was raised at the start of the pandemic, when England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries suggested people move in together to avoid having to socially distance.
She said people could “test the strength of their relationship and decide whether they should permanently be resident in another household”.