Sex workers urged to screen clients for symptoms amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sex workers are being warned to take extra precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sex workers are being warned to take extra precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Getty Images

Sex workers in New Zealand are being urged to screen all clients for coronavirus symptoms and travel history amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday, the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) released a statement for sex workers urging them to take extra care during the outbreak. 

"NZPC acknowledges the uncertainty and distress many of you will be experiencing regarding COVID-19 and its impact on sex work income. 

"We suggest screening clients for symptoms and travel history before booking them. This will reduce risk and clients may feel more comfortable booking if they know you're taking sensible precautions," NZPC said. 

NZPC also warned sex workers to brace for a "significant drop in income" as the coronavirus takes a toll on the economy. 

"Call and make an appointment with Work and Income now in preparation before [you] experience extreme financial hardship.

"Also, please reach out to your friends and co-workers to support each other. This is definitely a time to check in on people and seek help from friends if you need it." 

For those who want to take extra measures, NZPC suggests "diversifying services" to allow for physical distancing.

"The next few months will be challenging in many ways. Please look after your health, the health of those around you, and be as financially prepared as possible."

There are 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. Everyone arriving in New Zealand is required to self-isolate for 14 days, the only exception is for the Pacific Islands. 

On Tuesday, the Government revealed its $12.1 billion COVID-19 economic support package. 

The package - representing 4 percent of New Zealand's GDP - sets aside $2.8 billion for income support, including $25 per week benefit increase and a doubling of the Winter Energy Payment for 2020.  

The Ministry of Health says the best way to stay safe is to regularly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, clean surfaces frequently, and stay home if you're sick.

How can I protect myself?

  • avoid touching the mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands

  • washing your hands before eating

  • carrying a hand sanitiser at all times

  • being particularly mindful of touching your face after using public transport or going to the airport

  • carry tissues at all times to cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing (then dispose of it)

  • not eating shared or communal food

  • avoiding shaking hands, kissing cheeks

  • regularly cleaning and sanitise commonly used surfaces and items, such as phones and keys

  • avoiding close contact with people suffering from or showing symptoms of acute respiratory infection

  • seeking medical attention if you feel unwell.