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'Casual sex ban': Health Sec Matt Hancock fails to define what an 'established relationship' is

Hook ups are currently illegal under current government guidelines in parts of the UK.

2020-09-24

Health Secretary Matt Hancock struggled to answer questions on the government's casual sex ban during an interview today.

Government guidelines were quietly updated last week, effectively banning sex between people from different households unless they're in an 'established relationship.'

Hancock was asked by Sky News presenter Kay Burley: "How long is this casual sex ban going to last? You're saying no social distancing needed in 'established relationships...' What about people who are not in an established relationship?"

After several seconds of dithering, Hancock replied: "In these rules 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 northeast, the northwest and Scotland and parts of Wales - you have to then define what is the boundary of that."

"What is the boundary?" Burley then asks. "[...] If I say I love you [does that count as an established relationship]? Some people say that and don't mean it..."

"I think we should stick to the letter of it," replied Hancock. "That it's OK in an established relationship.. [...] I know I'm in an established relationship [with wife Martha]."

Pushed again on the meaning of "established relationship", Hancock said: "It just means people need to be careful, right? People need to be sensible. If you're in a relationship that is well-established... that's what it means."

Attempting another definition, Hancock said: "What it means is people realising by coming into close contact with people in other households then that is how the virus spreads. I just comes back to the first principles, right, which is we all want to keep this virus under control.

"We all need to play our part. Playing our part means following the social distancing rules and from today, downloading the [NHS Covid-19] app.

"That is part of doing your bit. It means abiding by these rules in their letter and their spirit."

Asked again what an established relationship is, and whether people can "bend the rules" on it, Hancock said: "I wouldn't suggest bending the rules."

In England, according to current government guidelines, "You do not need to socially distance from anyone in your household, meaning the people you live with. You also do not need to socially distance from someone you’re in an established relationship with, or anyone in your legally-permitted support bubble if you are in one."

For more information about the current socially distancing guidelines and how they impact on casual sex, read our explainer here.