We're both early 20's males in the UK. We both intern at the same company, and have lived together for around 8 months.

Given the present situation, people are supposed to be isolating themselves as much as possible. Both his friend and girlfriend have recently been at a university (no longer than a week ago) where there have been COVID-19 cases (including one who attended a very popular student club, so I'm fully expecting widespread transmission amongst the students).

As I see it, this is putting both of us in serious danger of contracting the virus, as well as everyone in our community - he's violating pretty basic rules of social distancing.

This image depicts guidelines for self-quarantine isolation. Some of the advice given here was highlighted by the post author. The highlighted parts are: "Practice social distancing, no hugs and kisses, no handshakes, no high fives. If you must, use safer alternatives", "Reduce travel to a minimum. Don't travel longs distances if not absolutely necessary", "Do not use public transportation if not absolutely necessary", "Replace as many social interactions as possible with remote alternatives like phone calls or video chat", and finally "Do not leave your home unless absolutely necessary"

He says that he's tried to ask her if she could wait a week or two to come, but it seems like she's the one who wants to come right now, rationalising that she should come while it's still "relatively safe" - I don't think it's relatively safe at all.

How do I convince him or his girlfriend that to travel now would be a bad idea?

  • Since this SE wants answers based on personal experience and no one alive has had to tell a roommate's girlfriend to stay away due to a plague, answers might be hard to find for this question. How is this different (aside from your motivation) than any other time you've had to tell a flatmate's GF to stay away? That might help you get an answer. Mar 19, 2020 at 20:41
  • 1
    Is this about them regularly coming over for a social visit, or coming to stay for a while?
    – AsheraH
    Mar 19, 2020 at 20:48

2 Answers 2


I have found that, in most cases, hard data tends to be the best way to persuade someone.

In this instance, you could show your flatmate this article that indicates the results of a test performed in one of Italy's Covid-19 hot spots.

The highlight:

The bottom line is very simple: many people who contract the disease are asymptomatic.

The data:

Yet, what will ensure Vo’ Euganeo a place in the history of medicine is the decision made by the Governor of the Veneto region (which includes Padua, Venice, and Verona) to test all 3,341 inhabitants of the town twice: the first time before closing it off from the rest of Italy and a second time two weeks later.

and, most importantly,

more than 50 percent of the documented COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic cases

Based on that, I would approach my flatmate by saying something like

"Hey mate, I have just found out something rather concerning: I've read an article about a town in Italy where all of its population was blanket tested for Covid-19, irrespective as to whether they were sick or not, and they found that at least 50% of the infected people had no symptoms whatsoever!

This means that, right now, your girlfriend could be an asymptomatic carrier. In fact, both you and I could be infected right now and not know it!

How about we review our social distancing and hygiene habits, in light of this information, and we share this data with your girlfriend too?"


I would think there are fair reasons to rationalize the risk, first as not belonging to population with high death rates from COVID, but also on the risk that the university exposure represents.

Indeed, it is worth mentioning that incubation period being very rarely exceed 7 days: there are 98% chances that if they were contaminated there, they would have shown symptoms by now.

Because of this, there is as little risk than with any other social interaction, which is not that great if it's one of the only person (with you) that your roommate is seeing right now, and that probably means your factual arguments for convincing him are pretty slim.

I would propose you that instead of directly trying to persuade him of not seeing his girlfriend, something were I would expect your chances are low and could put you two in conflict, you would instead start to negotiate and establish rules you would both follow to maximize your safety. This is an advice taken from science of persuasion (principle 1 & 4): use reciprocity to establish legitimate ground, and ask for small steps first.

So instead you could start ask him to agree on washing hands every time he comes back from outside, then start to practice social distancing from friends, coworkers or family. This would diminish the risks of contamination. If he agrees on that, you could then, later on, ask for more restrictive measures toward distancing someone as close as his girlfriend.

  • 4
    Actually, there have been a number of cases where someone was tested positive but didn't show symptoms. So not having symptoms is no guarantee, either.
    – Llewellyn
    Mar 29, 2020 at 16:08

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