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Home > Articles > Covid-19: Sex workers in 'survival mode' in Omicron region where incomes have plummeted

Covid-19: Sex workers in 'survival mode' in Omicron region where incomes have plummeted

2022-02-23 279

Sex workers say their incomes have plummeted since the red light initiative, with some putting themselves at risk to make ends meet without financial support.


She now earns an average of $300-500 per week, but considers her revenue to be unsatisfactory because her commissions have been reduced by about 80 percent due to the introduction of red light restrictions.


"I feel very anxious ...... It's definitely causing me depression because I'm constantly worried," she says.


"I wasn't worried when I was in level 2 because we had financial assistance, but this is different."


On the one hand, she said she agrees with the restrictions and the government's pandemic response. She said it was "life" that her business had been hit.


But after hearing reports of women being sexually and physically assaulted at work, she is concerned about the more vulnerable, young or migrant workers in the sex industry.


"If they don't have financial assistance, a 24-year-old will get in her car and work as an outcall service in a residential area ....... People have to put food on the table, people have to pay rent, so they end up in a dangerous situation."


Bella Petite said the requirement to scan clients' vaccine passes was "unfortunate in the extreme" for her, as it was a way to formally identify clients and potentially "weed out the dangerous ones".


Harley, an Auckland sex worker, said that while most people are happy to have their vaccine passes scanned, she has had clients leave because they don't want their names revealed for privacy reasons.


"I've heard of girls being threatened by clients for asking these questions," she said.


She used to earn an income by "touring." - She traveled multiple times every six weeks to another city. It's too risky to do that now, she says, but giving it up would mean a huge loss of income.


On a recent few days in Nelson, she made $5,000; for a week in Auckland, she got $800.


She is now considering taking on only regulars and making her screening more rigorous.


Red light restrictions also make for a challenging work environment, she says." Imagine what you do in the bedroom with your partner and you're wearing a mask."


Ms Catherine Healey, founder of the New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, said some sex workers were considering other jobs to make ends meet.


She said it was "quite a big comment" because sex work was often considered a job that was always available when other jobs dried up.


She said the sex industry should be included in any additional support provided to the hospitality industry.


Mrs Wellington, Mary Brennan, said her brothel had definitely been quieter since the country turned red.


She said safety had always been her priority - she made vaccine requirements before they were mandated and had recently banned hugs between staff.


She said sex work was also a "low-traffic" industry, with people seen much less than bar staff.


But if brothels become a location of concern, she said, people "panic" about catching covidien or "getting caught in places they shouldn't be".


Since turning red, she has been unable to pay her fees and the pressure has been felt throughout the industry.


"Everyone I've spoken to has said they've just died.


"I think for a lot of sex workers it's a survival situation."


She said the reinstatement of wage subsidies and one-off payments to businesses would take a lot of pressure off the industry.