Switzerland lets prostitution resume but judo and ballroom dancing still banned

Our Foreign Staff
A prostitute walks past so-called "sex boxes" at the opening day of Switzerland's first sex drive-in on August 26, 2013 in Zurich, which is aiming to get prostitution off the city streets. The drive-in, which as darkness began to fall was bathed in colourful lights, has a track where the sex workers can show off their assets and negotiate a price, and nine so-called "sex boxes" where they and their clients can park and conclude the transaction. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images) - FABRICE COFFRINI /AFP

Prostitutes are to be allowed to resume working but judo and ballroom dancing competitions remain banned under new coronavirus lockdown rules announced in Switzerland.

Sex workers will be allowed to offer services again from next month subject to strict hygiene measures, Alain Berset, the Swiss interior minister announced.

“There are certainly personal contacts but a concept of protection seems possible. I am well aware of the bizarre aspect of my answer,” Mr Berset told a press conference. “To tell you the truth, erotic services could have resumed earlier.”

The move comes as Switzerland announced it will end its state of emergency and end most lockdown measures next month.

But restrictions remain on large public events and contact sports — which are defined by the Swiss government to include ballroom dancing as well as boxing, judo and wrestling.

Under confusing new rules, training will be allowed to resume for contact sports, even when it involves close personal contact, but competitions and public events remain banned.

Public matches and competitions for other sports will be allowed to resume from next month for a limit of 300 spectators.

Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset gestures during a news conference, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Zurich, Switzerland April 30, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann - ARND WIEGMANN/REUTERS

The move to reopen the sex trade comes after intense lobbying by Prokore, a Swiss organisation that represents sex workers.

Prostitution is legal in Switzerland but has been banned since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

Many prostitutes have no savings and have difficulty claiming benefits, and NGOs have warned that the ban was driving many to work illegally, with the accompanying safety risks.

Prokore drew up its own proposals for hygiene regulations to allow prostitution to resume and presented them to the Swiss government.

The measures include showers before and after sex, ventilation of the room after each customer, and maintaining social distancing of at least a forearm’s length between heads.

Other measures announced by the Swiss government this week include the reopening of nightclubs, subject to social distancing. Nightclubs will be allowed to admit a maximum of 300 customers at a time and must shut at midnight.

Swiss grandparents have been told its is safe for them to babysit their grandchildren again. The Swiss government has already said it is safe for grandparents to hug young children, who it says are at very low risk of catching or passing on the virus.

The current state of emergency in Switzerland will end on June 19. A ban on larger public events remains in place.