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The UK is expected see a surge in cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as society starts to reopen from Monday, with sexual health clinics anticipating a 'busy late spring and summer' period.
As part of the government's 'roadmap' out of lockdown, a number of sectors are able to reopen on Monday 12 April - including hospitality, with pubs and restaurants finally able to welcome customers once again for outdoor service.
Surveys conducted by the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) have found that sex clinics tend to get busier whenever lockdown measures have been lifted previously, with the pandemic also leading to increased pressure on sexual health services.
Because of this, Dr John McSorley, president of BASHH, advised people to 'beat the rush' by visiting a sexual health clinic sooner rather than later.
Speaking to the Daily Star, McSorley said: "If sex with a new partner is on your mind, however vaguely, then the time to get sorted is now.
"The UK entered the Covid-19 pandemic with gonorrhoea and syphilis at levels not seen for a generation or two.
"It would take some time to get back to that. It would happen slowly at first, then quickly. If we do all we can now, we could avoid it."
McSorley explained that 'an overall rise is expected' in STIs from 12 April as 'clinics are anticipating a busy late spring and summer 2021'.
He continued: "Lockdowns have been particularly tough for young people or people who were single when this all started.
"Looking after your sexual health is not about stopping things, but allowing you to live your best life."
McSorley has also warned that high levels of STIs could trigger a rise in drug-resistant forms spreading, saying this is 'absolutely a major concern' and a 'significant thread to our future well-being'.
"We have already had three cases of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea in the UK in 2018," he said.
"Multi drug resistance arises through the over use and poor supervision of antibiotics in the UK and worldwide."
His comments echo similar advice from the World Health Organization, which has spoken out about a strain of gonorrhoea that is resistant to antibiotics.
Nicknamed 'super gonorrhoea', experts say the STI may become untreatable with antibiotics, due to their overuse.
Speaking to The Sun, a WHO spokesperson said: "Overuse of antibiotics in the community can fuel the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhoea.
"During the pandemic, STI services have also been disrupted. This means more STI cases are not diagnosed properly with more people self-medicating as a result.
"Such a situation can fuel emergence of resistance in gonorrhoea including gonorrhoea superbug (super gonorrhoea) or gonorrhoea with high level resistance to current antibiotics recommended to treat it."
The spokesperson added: "Resistant strains in gonorrhoea continue to be a critical challenge to STI prevention and control efforts."
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