March 24, 2020 / 6:56 PM / 11 days ago

Move in together or stay apart, UK tells couples hit by lockdown

LONDON (Reuters) - As Britons adapt to a coronavirus lockdown, one of the country’s top doctors had this advice for non-cohabiting couples: now may be the time to test the strength of your relationship.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Britons on Monday to stay at home to halt the spread of coronavirus, imposing curbs on everyday life without precedent in peacetime.

It included banning gatherings of more than two people in public who do not live together and telling Britons to stay at least 2 metres away from people outside their household, prompting the question: what about couples who live apart?

“I’m clearly going to start a new career here in relationship counselling,” said Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, when asked about the issue at the government’s daily news conference.

The government’s advice is based on the fact that if one person in a household gets the virus, others are likely to as well, she said, meaning couples who do not live together should stay apart or risk spreading the disease.

“The alternative might be that for quite a significant period going forward they should just test the strength of their relationship ... test really carefully your strength of feeling,” she said.

“Stay with the household either together or apart, but keep it that way while we go forward because otherwise we will not all be working towards achieving our outcome.”

Health minister Matt Hancock added: “There you go: make your choice and stick with it.”

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Elizabeth Howcroft; editing by Stephen Addison

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