THE lockdown sex ban imposed on thousands of couples who live apart is to be removed from Saturday, Boris Johnson announced last night.
The prime minister said ‘support bubbles’ will let people living alone visit one other household — and stay overnight — without social distancing.
Single parents are also eligible to take advantage of the rule change.
And as well as giving the green light for nights of passion to resume after 12 weeks, it enables older people living alone to visit grandchildren.
‘We are making this change to support those who are particularly lonely as a result of lockdown measures,’ Mr Johnson said at the daily Downing Street press briefing.
‘It is a targeted intervention to limit the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions. It is emphatically not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside other people’s homes, because that remains against the law.’
The ‘bubbles’ allow for single parents and people who live alone to connect with one other household.
They will be able to visit that household, or play host to people who live there, without restriction.
But the two households must be exclusive to each other and can’t change their minds — so flatsharers might find themselves having to decide which of them can be joined by their lover.
The relaxation — which only applies in England — does not benefit the 2.2million ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ people who must still shield themselves by staying in with no visitors.
And Mr Johnson resisted growing demands from pubs for an end to the two-metre rule ahead of their hoped-for reopening on July 4.
As the UK toll of coronavirus deaths confirmed by a test rose by another 245 to reach 41,128 yesterday, the PM said: ‘There is a balance of risk to be struck and the issue for me is how far down you can get the incidence of disease.’ He said 53,000 people have the virus at present and the R rate — how many others each infected person passes it to — is still just below one.
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, stressed that people not benefiting from the new bubbles must continue only meeting outside.
‘We are not at the end of this epidemic, not by a long shot,’ he said. ‘It is only by breaking the link between households that we can keep the R rate down and reduce the risk.’
Hopes that the two-metre rule might be dropped were raised after it was left out of new draft guidance for pubs and restaurants. And before last night’s briefing the PM told the Commons it was ‘under review’. The British Beer and Pub Association last night urged him to reduce the limit to one metre, saying members needed to know by tomorrow to be ready to reopen on July 4.
Dr Colin Axon, an energy and engineering lecturer at Brunel University London, said: ‘You can’t continue to run society on a two-metre distancing rule — one metre is perfectly reasonable.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attacked the PM in the Commons over the U-turn on reopening primary schools to all year groups. ‘This mess was completely avoidable,’ he said.
■ GCSE and A-level pass marks should be relaxed for pupils who have had their exams cancelled this year, according to the National Education Union. Joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said, although ‘controversial’, the move was needed to ensure disadvantaged pupils are not unfairly affected by teachers underestimating their grades. ‘Where there is doubt, somebody should move up a grade rather than moving down a grade,’ he added.