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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

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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