Is sex safe during COVID-19 pandemic?

It is not unimaginable that with so many couples locked down within the confines of their homes 24/7, that close physical proximity could result in increased sexual activity, giving rise to questions regarding how safe sex is during these troubled times. COVID-19 disease or infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus has gripped the world and has taken the form of a pandemic affecting 175 nations and territories across the globe.

Image Credit: PPstudio / Shutterstock
Image Credit: PPstudio / Shutterstock

Recommendations and answers to frequently asked questions regarding sexual intercourse between those affected by the COVID-19 disease were provided to the Guardian by leading experts.

The experts are Dr. Jessica Justman, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Dr. Carlos E Rodríguez-Díaz, professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and Dr. Julia Marcus, infectious disease epidemiologist, and professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Is sexual intercourse OK during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Experts warn that if one of the partners is COVID-19 positive, sex should be avoided. Isolation of the infected person has been advised, and no contact with the uninfected family members and partners is recommended.

Sexual intercourse is not a taboo for uninfected partners locked down inside their homes add experts. In fact, sexual intercourse could help relieve some of the anxiety and stress and bring the couples closer to each other.

Dr. Carlos E. Rodríguez-Díaz, in a statement, said, “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted via sexual intercourse, either vaginal or anal. However, kissing is a prevalent practice during sex, and the virus can be transmitted via saliva. Therefore, the virus can be transmitted by kissing.”

Can COVID-19 be transmitted from one person to another via sexual intercourse?

As of now, there has been no indication that COVID-19 can be transmitted from one person to another via sexual intercourse. The transmission is known to occur via respiratory droplets, say experts. It can also be transmitted if an uninfected person touches a surface that has been contaminated by respiratory droplets containing the virus. The experts advise that vaginal or anal intercourse does not spread the infection. Still, kissing is a common practice during sex, and the virus may be transmitted from the infected person to the partner via the saliva contaminated with the virus. Transmission via oral sex thus is also a possibility.

Professor Claudia Estcourt, an expert from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said, “It is safe for people in a household which has been self-isolating for over 14 days to have sex. But remember that every time someone goes out of their household, that person has the potential to acquire the virus. You will need to keep resetting the 14-day clock if one of you is in contact with someone with coronavirus or develops symptoms.”

Having sex with someone who has been in contact with a person with COVID-19 is also a no-no say, experts.

The health department from the United States has published a booklet outlining the answers to FAQs regarding sex during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines state, “You are your safest sex partner. Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.” The experts behind the guidelines say that vaginal fluid or semen have not been tested yet, but SARS-CoV 2 virus has been found in feces. MERs and SARs belong to the same family of viruses, and those are also not transmitted sexually.

Can one use sex toys? How to make sure they do not transmit the infection?

The usual rules for using sex toys and keeping them clean apply. All sex toys must be cleaned using soap and water. This would help prevent several sexually transmitted infections.

Connecting with a new partner for sex -  is it OK?

With the lockdowns in place in most countries across the world, people are stuck inside their homes and not able to meet up with new people for sex. This makes connecting with unknown potential sexual partners difficult. Right now, because of the physical distancing, experts speculate that there may be fewer people connecting for sex for the next few weeks. Other forms of connecting for sex, including sexting, explicit video calls, masturbation, and erotica, could still be practiced and enjoyed. Several experts have said that the present times could instead be ideal for getting to know potential partners through connecting via social media or via phone calls and maintaining physical distancing.

“Consider taking a break from in-person dates. Video dates, sexting, or chat rooms may be options for you,” state the NYC health guidelines.

Sources:
Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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