Couples living apart have been told to move in together or not see each other at all during the coronavirus crisis.
“Make your choice and stick with it,” health secretary Matt Hancock said at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference in Downing Street on Tuesday.
It comes after Boris Johnson announced draconian new measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus.
Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said couples living in separate households could be spreading coronavirus if they continue to see each other.
She recommended non-cohabiting partners “test their strength of feeling” for one another.
Dr Harries said: “If you are two individuals, two halves of the couple, currently in separate households, then ideally they should stay in those households.
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“The alternative might be that, for quite a significant period going forward, they should just test the strength of their relationship and decide whether they should be permanently resident in another household.”
Dr Harries added: “What we do not want is people switching in and out of households.
“It defeats the purpose of reductions in social interactions and will allow the transmission of disease.
“Perhaps test really carefully your strength of feeling, stay with [a] household either together or apart, but keep it that way while we go forward.”
Hancock issues call for 250,000 NHS volunteers
Hancock used the briefing, in which he and Dr Harries were quizzed by journalists via video-link, to call for 250,000 volunteers to assist with the national effort to tackle coronavirus, help the NHS and support the vulnerable.
He also announced more than 35,000 extra NHS staff would be joining the fight against the virus, including retired doctors and nurses returning to the service, and final year students joining the frontline.
Hancock also confirmed a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital – would be opening at London’s Excel centre.