Sex on premises venues in New South Wales can finally reopen next week but Sydney’s gay saunas have accused NSW Health of unfair treatment.
On Tuesday, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet brought forward the easing of a raft of restrictions for vaccinated people from December 1 to Monday, November 8.
He said this is because the state is “on track to reach 90 per cent double vaccination weeks ahead of schedule.”
“Everybody’s done an incredible job to ensure NSW can ease restrictions in a safe and considered way earlier than planned,” Perrottet said.
However gay venue Sydney Sauna claim their reopening has been unfairly delayed for weeks, and should’ve been permitted last month alongside the state’s sex services premises (brothels) and strip clubs.
In a letter to Health Minister Brad Hazzard last week, Sydney Sauna said the NSW government published a roadmap on October 4 declaring sex on premises venues would reopen when the state hit 80% fully vaccinated.
Sydney Sauna said they had begun “preparing for and expending money” towards the earlier target. The state went on to reach 80% on October 18.
However on October 5, Dominic Perrottet became New South Wales Premier and after a review of restrictions, four days later the government published an updated roadmap.
The new document delayed the reopening of sex on premises venues until December 1.
“The fact that [our] industry is one that exclusively services the LGBTQI+ community raises the uncomfortable question that the decision to delay the reopening has a discriminatory effect on this minority group,” Sydney Sauna wrote.
“The sex services industry, which traditionally services the heterosexual or heteronormative community, has been reopened.”
Gay sauna ‘no more unsafe than a bar’
Sydney Sauna argued the discrepancy ultimately undermined efforts to control COVID-19.
Sexual activity instead moved to apps, beats or unregulated house parties.
“It’s fanciful to assume [those] participants are self-regulating to exclude unvaccinated participants,” they wrote.
The saunas, on the other hand, have COVID-safe plans including vaccination status checks, recordkeeping, ventilation and other measures.
“There’s no evidence or factors rendering our venue more unsafe than a sex service premises or a bar,” Sydney Sauna wrote.
‘Can’t wait to start our lives again’
After the announcement on Tuesday, NSW sex on premises venues can now reopen on Monday (November 8).
On Facebook, gay sauna 357 Sydney City Steam confirmed the date and celebrated the announcement.
“We are open after almost six months at 10am Monday the 8th November,” the 357 team wrote.
“Can’t wait to start our lives again.”
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