London (AFP) - The British government on Tuesday defended tweaks to its coronavirus lockdown rules, after claims that a ban on overnight stays between households would criminalise sex.
The new guidelines came into force on Monday, easing some restrictions on social gatherings but prohibiting two people from different households from meeting in a private place.
Some media called it an effective "bonking ban" and #sexban began trending on Twitter in Britain, with some pointing out al fresco liaisons appeared to be permitted but not indoor ones.
But housing minister Simon Clarke told LBC radio that it was not the right characterisation, and the overall aim of the measures was to protect public health and cut infection rates.
"It's vitally important, clearly, that people stay in their home and we don't have any additional transmission risk in society, and this is obviously a key step to making this sustainable," he said.
Asked whether sex was allowed outside, providing public decency laws were respected, Clarke refused to be drawn.
"It's fair to say the transmission risk for coronavirus in the open air is much lower than in internal spaces," he noted.
"We obviously do not encourage people to be doing anything like that outside at this time or any other."
The new guidelines allow groups of up to six people to meet outdoors for activities such as exercise and barbecues.
But they state: "No person may participate in a gathering which takes place in public or private place indoors, and consists of two or more persons."
Anyone found breaking the rules faces a fine of £100 ($125, 112 euro), although the government pointed out police have no powers to enter homes unless "serious criminal activity" is suspected.
Police have warned the new regulations could be unenforceable, particularly after recent sunny weather saw large numbers of people congregate in parks and beaches.
Downing Street said officers would be "exercising their common sense and engaging with the public, and only issuing fixed penalties as a last resort".