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Sex workers protest in Berlin as coronavirus keeps brothels shut

Several dozen prostitutes armed with an inflatable sex doll staged a protest in Berlin on Friday against coronavirus restrictions they say are preventing them from making a living.

Sex workers protest in Berlin as coronavirus keeps brothels shut
Protesters outside the Bundesrat on Friday with a sign "Open the brothels now!". Photo: DPA

The protesters gathered outside the Bundesrat upper house of parliament with red umbrellas and placards bearing slogans such as “Let us work,” “Open the brothels now” and “Our sector is being driven underground”.

Prostitution is legal and regulated in Germany, with sex workers entitled to employment contracts and social security benefits.

READ ALSO: What's the advice for sex and dating in Germany during the coronavirus crisis?

But sex work has been banned since mid-March as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The Federal Association for Erotic and Sex Services said this was “incomprehensible in view of the developments in other sectors”.

“Hairdressers, massage parlours, beauty salons… fitness studios, tattoo shops, saunas, restaurants and hotels have been allowed to reopen,” it said in a statement, but sex workers “seem to have been forgotten by politicians”.

A protester with a banner “Sex work is work. Respect!”. Photo: DPA

Brothels have been allowed to reopen in neighbouring countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, the association pointed out.

“Prostitution facilities are subject to particularly strict regulations and are obliged to offer their sex workers a safe, hygienic working environment,” it said.

More than 9,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Germany, according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control centre.

With new infection numbers falling, some German states, such as Thuringia, are considering allowing brothels to reopen.

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COVID-19

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”

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