When the government announced their four-step plan to get the country out of lockdown and finally (by 21 June earliest) free from all COVID-related restrictions, the response largely fell into two camps: those who felt anxious about the return to 'normality' (whatever that may look like) and those who said 'OH MY GOD, FREEDOM – I CAN NOT WAIT!'.
Now, experts are warning that as the restrictions begin to ease up, that safe sex still needs to remain well and truly on the agenda, saying that based on data from previous lockdowns ending, sex could become riskier. Statistics from online pharmacy Medicine Direct show that the number of people seeking emergency contraception and STI tests both increased by more than 40% as a result of previous lockdowns ending.
The report, which analysed almost four million Google searches in order to get the results, found that the number of people looking for emergency contraception increased by 41% and for STD tests by over 53%, when the average numbers from March to June 2020 were contrasted with those during the period of July 2021 (the easing of Lockdown 1).
The findings have prompted experts to start a campaign reminding us all of the importance of sexual health and using protection in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, as we transition out of Lockdown 3 (and hopefully pandemic life entirely).
Hussain Abdeh, superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct, said, "Sexual health is always important and the pandemic has raised some important questions around the way we empower people to manage their own sexual choices.
"The rise in the number of people searching for emergency contraception is a clear indication that we need to educate and remind those of a sexually active age to be thoughtful in their actions and to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves and those with whom they interact safe."
Abdeh also added,"We hope that the 'stay sex safe' message will remind people that while we are all excited to get back to some form of normality, those considerations around our sexual health remain as [key] as ever."
Whilst practicing safe sex is of course always an important thing to prioritise – as is having regular STI check-ups – accidents can still occur. If you're worried that you could be pregnant, or have had unsafe sex and are experiencing symptoms of an STI, it's important to remember that there are many support services and options available.
You can also now buy the morning after pill online to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex (and have up to four days to take it, depending on which brand you're opting for).
Having a coil fitted after unprotected sex can also act as a form of emergency contraception, as well as offering long-term prevention of pregnancy in the future. There are both hormonal and non-hormonal coils available.
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