Mask Use & Sex On Premises: Navigating A COVID-19 World?

Mask Use & Sex On Premises: Navigating A COVID-19 World?

New South Wales has reopened sex on premise venues as of July 1, 2020, after they had been shut down following the global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.With the threat of a spike in Coronavirus infections ever present, as seen in Melbourne, we look at the advice made available by LGBTQI organisations about how to keep yourself safe – at sex on premise venues, in bars as well as in public spaces.

Should you wear a mask?

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews last week encouraged Victorians to wear a mask in places where you cannot socially distance (staying >1.5 m away from others). The exception is if one has chronic respiratory issues.

No jurisdiction in Australia has made it mandatory to wear a mask outside, even in Melbourne, which went back to Stage 3 restrictions last week, it is a recommendation and not a compulsion.

Thorne Harbour Health (THH) in its guideline about masks, said that the evidence about mask-use in non-medical settings is not conclusive.

“It is believed that masks may be effective in reducing the amount of virus in the community if people who are infected with COVID-19 wear masks to protect others.”

According to the Department of Health (DOH), “Wearing a mask can help protect you and those around you if you are in an area with community transmission, and physical distancing is not possible, like on public transport. This is the situation in parts of Victoria.”

Wearing a face mask, however, is not the reason to be complacent, according to the authorities. A face mask is not a substitute for other precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19 (staying at home when unwell, physical distancing,  hand hygiene, cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene).”

Further, DOH has warned that the inappropriate use of masks, like not wearing it properly or handling it safely, entails risk. (Note that the recommendation in Victoria is to wear masks, given the community transmission there. Do follow the latest advisories here.

 THH has issued guidelines on how to correctly wear masks. These include:

  • Wash/sanitise hands before fitting your mask.
  • Do not touch the mask itself when putting it on.
  • Fit the mask to cover your nose, mouth and bottom of your chin.
  • Do Not touch the mask once you have put it on.
  • Do not touch your face and eyes when in public.
  • Wash your hands before and after you take off your mask.

When you order your mask, why not get one which supports LGBTQI causes. One of our readers has recommended the Pride Mask from The Candy Harlot Store.

“With the creation of our Pride Mask The Candy Harlots store has set up an ongoing monthly donation to local sydney charity Twenty-10 who work tirelessly to support LGBTQI+ youth who are facing homelessness,” the online store says on its website.

The Kindness Pandemic, a social media group has started an online campaign to promote the use of masks, by asking people to click a selfie wearing a mask.

 How to be safe at sex on premise venues?

The reopening of sex on premises venues in NSW, if they have  COVID-19 safety plan in place, has prompted ACON and NSW Health to issue an advisory. ACON is working with the premise operators to minimise risk and the venues will also be required to display their COVID-19 safety plan.

While COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, physical intimacy does carry a risk of infection. “While the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to not engage in casual sex, there are ways to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus for those who choose to visit SOPVs and engage in casual sex,” says ACON.

In order to check if the premises you are visiting has a safety plan, ACON has recommended patrons to check if the venues have made available soap or sanitisers in public places, comply with rules on social distancing and undertake regular cleaning of facilities. Patrons may also be required to provide their name and contact details to assist in contact tracing if there is a COVID-19 outbreak linked to the venue.

So should you be wearing a mask at a sex on premises venue? The New York City’s health advisory recommends putting on a mask as an added layer of protection. “Maybe it’s your thing, maybe it’s not, but during COVID-19 wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth is a good way to add a layer of 3 protection during sex. Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further, and if you or your partner have COVID-19 and don’t know it, a mask can help stop that spread.” NYC Health says.

ACON’s advice is that people should be aware that we are in the middle of a pandemic.

“The places we gather, whether they be bars, bookshops, back rooms or balconies are now starting to reopen and a level of vibrancy and excitement for life is returning. However, we are not yet done with COVID-19 and its implications on our communities, so our collective, continued vigilance and respect are needed to see us through to the other side.”

For the latest information, check ACON’s COVID-19 online resources here.

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