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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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.”