Couples living separately should ‘test the strength’ of their relationships by either moving in together or remaining apart during the Covid-19 government shutdown.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries told the public to urgently ‘make your choice and stick with it’.

This is because couples living apart could be spreading the virus if they continue to see each other and they should not be switching between households over the next three weeks.

Couples should stay in their own households and not move about or meet each other in public spaces or meet up with them at work for roles such as delivery driving to spend time with each other.

You either move in together or you stay apart until the lockdown is over.

‘The reason for that is if you have an infection you are very close with your family members, so your risk of exposure to the virus is pretty similar, usually, across a family.

‘We almost expect another member of the family to get that unless they apply very, very stringent precautions.

‘So if you’re two individuals, two halves of a couple in separate households, ideally they should stay in those households.

‘The alternative might be that for quite a significant period going forward they should test the strength of their relationship and decide whether one wishes to be permanently resident in another household.

‘What we do not want is people switching in and out of households, it defeats the purpose of their deduction in social interaction and will allow transmissions of disease.

‘So perhaps test really carefully your strength of feeling, stay with the household, either together or apart, but keep it that way while we go forward, otherwise, we will not all be working towards achieving the outcome.’

Matt Hancock told members of the public ‘these are not requests, they are rules’,

‘Yesterday the Prime Minister announced radical steps to stop the spread of this virus. These steps are not requests; they are rules.

‘You should stay at home unless you have one of the four reasons, which is exercise, shopping as little as you have to, for medical reasons, or to go to work where that work can’t be done at home.’