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COVID-19

How Swiss brothels are encouraging vaccinations

Like many other sectors of the nation’s economy, Switzerland’s sex industry is also doing its part in promoting people to get the jab.

The Swiss sex industry is doing its part in encouraging vaccinations.
To many prostitutes, getting vaccinated against Covid makes a lot of street sense. Photo: REMY GABALDA / AFP

Switzerland has just completed its Vaccination Week that took place across the country from November 8th to 24th with a goal of encouraging vaccine holdouts to get jabbed.

In order to entice as many people as possible to roll up their sleeves, some sites offered various post-vaccine perks. In Zurich, for instance, free raclette or coffee with pastry was offered on the spot to anyone who got a shot.

But a brothel in Geneva came up with a more original incentive: it offers free oral sex in exchange for the vaccine.

To “thank the vaccinated people for contributing to the resumption of a normal life”, Club Delicious in Geneva is offering this service to anyone who can “present proof of vaccination within the previous three days”, the brothel writes on its website.

This special offer is only valid until November 30th, however.

Though such offers don’t come up too often (officially this is the first), Switzerland’s sex industry in general has been rigorous in applying heath rules during the pandemic.

For instance in May 2020, the association representing Swiss sex workers presented a health plan, with measures such as ventilation of rooms for at least 15 minutes after each customer visit, use of gloves, condoms and disinfectants, and adopting training and information campaigns to further reduce the risk of infection. 

The association also said visits would be kept to a maximum of 15 minutes and kissing – which was already rare before the lockdown measures came into place – would be actively discouraged. 

Additionally, contact data – including names and phone numbers – would have to be provided by each customer.

And the protective measures included a list of sex positions which minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The following month, the owner of a brothel in Zug said a number of changes in his establishment had been adopted as well, including the ‘no oral sex or older men’ rule — since men in this age group were more likely to catch Covid — as well as the emphasis on “less sexual intercourse and  more on body massages”.

Because of these rules, the country’s brothels, which were shut down during the six-week confinement like many other businesses — were allowed to reopen on June 8th, 2020.

What about today?

The Covid certificate is not required in brothels, the same way as it is not compulsory in other personal wellness services like beauty salons or hairdressers. Service providers don’t have to be vaccinated either, although they do have to comply with protective measures like masks.

However, in August 2021, a directory of independent escorts, bemygirl.ch, has created a pictogram to highlight its members who have Covid certificates, so that customers can choose accordingly.

In presenting the workers who have been vaccinated, the company “continues its quest for transparency towards the public and adds a vital piece of information in an environment where contacts are inevitably direct and close”, bemygirl said on its website.

Must all sex workers in Switzerland be vaccinated?

From the very beginning of the vaccination campaign in January 2021, the government emphasised that vaccines, though strongly recommended, are not compulsory and nobody can be immunised against their will.

This rule also extends to prostitutes as well brothels, which can’t require its sex workers to get the jab.

READ MORE: Can your boss require you to have a Covid certificate in Switzerland?

What legal status do sex workers in Switzerland have?

Prostitution has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940s and is considered a legitimate service industry, whose members pay taxes, contribute to their Social Security fund, and must take up health and accident insurance the same way as any other self-employed person.

The Swiss have taken this pragmatic approach to prevent exploitation, sexually transmitted diseases, links with criminal networks and other problems common in countries where sex commerce is banned.

But unlike their counterparts in other sectors, they must register with public health authorities and undergo regular health checks. 

There is no stigma attached to sex work in Switzerland, as long as it is practiced legally.

In fact, in some disputes, authorities have been known to side with prostitutes rather the so-called “law-abiding” citizens.

One such case happened in the Thurgau town of Arbon in 2018, where several residents wrote a letter to city officials, complaining about the sights and sounds emanating from a local  brothel, asking authorities to shut it down.

But the municipality responded that the brothel will be allowed to operate because of the valuable service it provides. “This establishment has a right to exist, as it fulfils the social need of the population,” officials said.

READ MORE: REVEALED: What are the best and worst paid jobs in Switzerland?

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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