Dear Dr. G,

Like most Malaysians and the rest of the world, affected by movement control order (MCO), I am feeling rather anxious paranoid about disease transmission.

If I understand correctly, the virus itself is contagious and can be deadly. Therefore, hand washing and social distancing are the only ways to prevent contracting the infection.

The virus can be transmitted when the individual with infection coughs or sneezes. Therefore touching and kissing will be prohibited.

As the MCO itself generated opportunity for romancing and even sexual contacts, I am keen to put Dr. G on the spot about sex and Covid-19 viral infections.

Is it normal that my sexual libido increases during the lockdown?

Is the virus transmitted through salivary and other bodily fluid?

Is sexual activity safe, with respect to Covid-19 viral infections?

What sort of sexual activities would be more risky than others?

And lastly, what would be the measures observed to reduce the risk of disease transmission?

Really looking forward to hearing your advice on tips to romancing despite social distancing!

Romancing Romeo

Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that has spread globally, resulting in the ongoing pandemic bringing most parts of the world to its knees. The main mode of transmission of the virus is close contact, as the small droplets disseminate during coughing, sneezing and even talking. The other mode of spread is by touching contaminated surfaces and subsequent transmission to the face, as the virus can survive on surfaces up to 72 hours.

As the pandemic progresses, most part of the world is practising exceptional hand hygiene and social distancing to flatten the curve. Indeed, during the time of the movement control order (MCO), we are all taking precautions to prioritise our daily essentials, while minimising risks of disease transmission. How sexual behaviours fall on this spectrum also raises a great deal of questions around safe intimate physical contact.

During this unprecedented time of MCO, it is difficult to predict whether individuals are turning to sex for comfort and distraction, or if the lockdown is causing anxiety, depression and frictions that may adversely affect sexual desire. Although previous studies reveal decreased in sexual activities on traumatised community, the increase in condom sales during the Wuhan lockdown can predict enhanced sexual activities. In fact, the famous Malaysian manufacturer making one in five condoms globally is predicting a shortfall of 100 million condoms during the pandemic. Other related industries also witness similar trends in “hard” times, as the virus created a paradoxical sex industry sales boom. A Swedish luxury sex toy brand has seen its sales increased by 40%, while a British sex toy and lingerie retailer reported nearly a one third in sales increase.

It is generally advisable for couples to keep to their household routine despite the pandemic, including sex. For couples that are usually active in the bedroom, the fear of Covid-19 transmission should not be a deterrent to avoid sex. Having sex with your household sex partner (HSP) is safe, as the person is your close contact who lives in your household anyway. In fact, it will be almost impossible for couples to avoid sexual contacts during the lockdown. Apart from bedroom actions (and household chores), there is hardly any other activity to enjoy outside the compound of your home.

Covid-19 is a virus that can spread by droplet nuclei in the shared airspace of a six-foot radius that warrants adequate social distancing. The virus is also transmissible via saliva and mucus, hence kissing and oral sex are also considered contagious. Some studies demonstrated Covid-19 exists in faeces of the sufferers, while no significant viral load has been detected in semen or vaginal fluid. Therefore based on the current knowledge, the spread through unprotected vaginal sex is considered low risk, while anal intercourse may be of higher risk. Technically, minimising salivary and mucus transmission by halting foreplay, anal and oral sex is also advisable. As the knowledge of Covid-19 is still sparse, the use of condoms to reduce the transmission is still paramount to avoid other forms of infections, including STIs.

My favourite Irish Poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde once said: “Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement!” The Covid-19 pandemic strikes all aspects of our lives in an unprecedented manner. Some of us responded with relief from the usual fast-paced routine, while others fear the uncertainty that may be looming ahead. One thing is for sure, the pandemic has changed us all and life will never be the same again.

When equally baffled Dr. G is put on the spot by individuals and couples who seek clarification on ways of romancing during the era of social distancing. His response is “Romance is a mode of love that should continue despite the uncertain sentiment. However, not beginning romance with the knowledge of science will definitely end up with a settlement of an illness!” Therefore, based on the current knowledge of Covid-19 virology, the safest action is direct action, without any pre-action!

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