Couples who do not live together will not be allowed to have any physical contact with each other in many parts of England, Downing Street confirmed on Friday.

In Tier 2 areas, couples can meet outside but must adhere to social distancing rules and are not allowed physical contact, but sleepovers are banned in areas under the toughest two tiers of restrictions unless couples are in a “support bubble”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The rules on household mixing in Tier 2 set out that you should mix with your own household only unless you have formed a support bubble, and that obviously does apply to some couples.”

People in “established relationships” can meet if they live in Tier 1 areas, but Downing Street confirmed there would be no exemptions for couples in areas with the strictest rules.

The spokesman said people should “behave in the manner of” the tier they live in. Asked why established couples are not allowed to meet in the two highest levels of restrictions, he said: “Because the purpose of the measures we’ve put in place is to break the chain of transmission between households, and the scientific advice is there is greater transmission of the virus indoors.”

London, Essex and York are among the places being moved into Tier 2 restrictions this weekend, while Lancashire will join the Liverpool City Region in the highest Tier 3 level.

It comes just weeks after Government guidelines reversed a June decision on household mixing which made it illegal for people who do not live together to have sex. The guidance, updated in September, said that those who met needed to socially distance unless they were in an “established relationship”.

Speaking last month, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said people who were not in established couples needed to be “careful” and “sensible” when engaging in sexual relationships.

“If you’re in a relationship that is well established, what it means is people realising that coming into close contact with people from other households, then that is how the virus spreads.”

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