Hamburg sex workers celebrate easing of coronavirus restrictions

Sex workers are now allowed to return to work in the northern states of Hamburg, Bremen and Schleswig-Holstein after a further easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Hamburg sex workers celebrate easing of coronavirus restrictions
Sex workers have been unable to work for six months due to the pandemic. Photo: DPA

Brothel owners and sex workers gathered in the heart of Hamburg’s Reeperbahn (red-light district) on Tuesday to celebrate the lifting of a months-long ban on prostitution and sex work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

District Chief Falko Droßmann of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) marked the end of the ban on the district’s famous Herbertstraße, revealing a painting by the Dutch Pop art artist Maaike Dirkx.

The work is dedicated to Sexy Aufstand Reeperbahn (Sexy Resistance Red-light district), a group that has spent months campaigning for the reopening of brothels and an easing of restrictions for sex workers. 






A post shared by Sexy Aufstand Reeperbahn (@sexy_aufstand_reeperbahn) on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:13am PDT

A welcome decision

The prostitution industry has been one of the hardest hit by the corona crisis, with many workers struggling to survive financially. Famous brothels, such as Pascha in Cologne, have filed for bankruptcy after months of enforced closure. 

“I'm very pleased that we’ve been able to allow sex work to resume again,” said Droßmann, but he also warned that “we will continue to monitor the situation closely”.

READ ALSO: Brothels set to reopen in northern Germany with strict rules

Everyone involved will have to adhere to strict hygiene requirements. Sexy Aufstand Reeperbahn, which represents prostitutes and brothel owners, had already proposed a plan for safe re-opening in July.

Droßmann added that the pandemic has brought women in the industry closer than he has seen in the last 20 years. 

He hopes this new sense of community will remain after the pandemic: “Herbertstraße and the sex workers that work there should no longer be confined to the sidelines.”

As of Tuesday, the so-called “oldest profession in the world” is now allowed resume in Hamburg and Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein – albeit under strict conditions and only in registered prostitution facilities.

This follows a wave of legal victories for sex workers across the country, who took to the courts to overturn the ban imposed on prostitution.

The Higher Administrative courts in North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt have allowed brothels to resume business, months after the ban was introduced in all German states on March 16th.

Brothels adjust to 'new normal'

“Prostitution in vehicles and prostitution events are still prohibited”, added the Hamburg social authority, which is also responsible for health. 

To minimise the risk of infection, each brothel must enforce strict hygiene regulations. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about prostitution in Germany 

Other requirements include wearing a face covering, making appointments in advance, recording customers’ contact details, ensuring rooms are sufficiently ventilated and enforcing an alcohol ban. Prostitutes are also only allowed to work on a one to one basis.

The ban on sex work was partially lifted in Berlin in August. Since September 1st, physical contact has also been permitted. Brothels in many other states remain closed, however.

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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.