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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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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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