Despite concerns about COVID-19 ‘lockdown fatigue’ affecting compliance, most people adhered to the rules on intimate physical contact (ie, sex) between households. Four months after the first lockdown started, ~10% of survey participants in the Natsal-COVID wave 1 study reported sex outside the household in the 4 weeks prior to interview (quasi-representative web panel of 6654 British residents aged 18–59 years; July–August 2020). Those in steady relationships but not living with their partner (7.6% of sample) were most likely to report sex outside the household (56.8% of this group). Qualitative interviews identified careful consideration of risks and benefits, suggesting decisions were not taken lightly. One year later—when indoor mixing was again largely prohibited—we found a small increase in reporting sex outside the household (12.2% (95% CI 11.3% to 13.1%) compared with 9.9% (9.1% to 10.6%)), but associations by age and other characteristics remained stable (Natsal-COVID wave 2; 6658 residents aged 18–59 years; March–April 20214)


This content is not covered by the Open Government Licence. Please see source record or item for information on rights and permissions.

Cite as

Menezes, D., Sonnenberg, P., Willis, M., Mercer, C., Mitchell, K. & Field, N. 2024, 'Compliance with COVID-19 rules on intimate physical contact between households', Sexually Transmitted Infections, 100(1), pp. 54-54. https://doi.org/10.1136/sextrans-2023-055948

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 03 May 2024
Was this page helpful?