Kissing off menu as lockdown ends for Dutch sex workers

Dutch sex workers welcomed customers back on Wednesday as the Netherlands further eased coronavirus measures, but they were advised to avoid heavy breathing and kissing to help reduce the risk of transmitting Covid-19.

Erotic dancers and prostitutes lost their main source of income for three-and-a-half months and generally did not have access to state support during lockdown.

They were surprised when the government brought forward the date they could reopen from a tentative Sept. 1 to July 1.

Amsterdam's red light district, where thousands of tourists generally crowd the canals to see sex shows, erotic gift shops and prostitutes, has been deserted.

Red Light United, which represents Amsterdam's window prostitutes, had campaigned to get back to work as soon as possible, noting some sex workers still had to pay rent on their premises and lockdown was forcing them to work illegally, exposing them to greater risks.

"I am really looking forward to going back to work," said Moira Mona, a 29-year-old sex worker who will perform at an S&M club this week. "The extra income is going to be welcome, so in that sense I am hoping for a busy day... although I don't expect it to be as busy as before the corona crisis."

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Amsterdam's red light district during coronavirus
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Amsterdam's red light district during coronavirus
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/06/30: A worker disinfecting while cleaning at a sex workers' building during the preparations. The Wallen, famous red light district in Amsterdam is preparing for the opening as sex workers get back to work. A mask is not required for a customer to put on. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/06/30: Masks and gloves seen on a wooden seat inside a sex worker's room during the preparations. The Wallen, famous red light district in Amsterdam is preparing for the opening as sex workers get back to work. A mask is not required for a customer to put on. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/06/30: A precaution sign for no cameras is seen at a sex workers' building during the preparations. The Wallen, famous red light district in Amsterdam is preparing for the opening as sex workers get back to work. A mask is not required for a customer to put on. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/06/30: A worker cleaning a sex worker's room during the preparations. The Wallen, famous red light district in Amsterdam is preparing for the opening as sex workers get back to work. A mask is not required for a customer to put on. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/07/01: Tourists visit the ramparts during its reopening. Sex workers on the Red Light District are ready to get back to work. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/07/01: Tourists visit the ramparts during its reopening. Sex workers on the Red Light District are ready to get back to work. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 01: A general view of the Red Light District as it reopens after the Coronavirus or Covid19 Lockdown on July 01, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte announced that sex workers could officially return to work from July 1 but with strict rules about face-to-face contact, hygiene and making clients check for symptoms. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/06/30: A worker cleaning a sex worker's room during the preparations. The Wallen, famous red light district in Amsterdam is preparing for the opening as sex workers get back to work. A mask is not required for a customer to put on. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - 2020/06/27: A building with sex workers' posters during the covid 19 pandemic. In the red light district, the ramparts, sex workers campaign for relaxation of the coronavirus measures under the motto, Sex workers are entitled to equal treatment and support during the crisis. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - APRIL 04: A general view near the "Red Light District" which comes from the red neon lights that highlight the windows where prostitution is legal, but the area is also famous for its canals, coffeeshops selling marijuana or cannabis, brothels, sex shops and museums on what would be a usually busy Saturday night on April 04, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. All non-essential businesses will follow national policy regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) due to precautionary measures and will be closed to the public at least until further notice. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 60,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - APRIL 04: A general view of the 'Windows' in the "Red Light District" which comes from the red neon lights that highlight the windows where prostitution is legal, but the area is also famous for its canals, coffeeshops selling marijuana or cannabis, brothels, sex shops and museums on what would be a usually busy Saturday night on April 04, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. All non-essential businesses will follow national policy regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) due to precautionary measures and will be closed to the public at least until further notice. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 60,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - APRIL 04: A general view of Casa Rosso in the "Red Light District", which comes from the red neon lights that highlight the windows where prostitution is legal, but the area is also famous for its canals, coffeeshops selling marijuana or cannabis, brothels, sex shops and museums, on what would be a usually busy Saturday night on April 04, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. All non-essential businesses will follow national policy regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) due to precautionary measures and will be closed to the public at least until further notice. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 60,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Sex workers already adhere to strict health safety regulations in the Netherlands, but the industry has compiled a list of recommendations, including sexual positions to avoid.

Even with new guidelines, sex workers will be more exposed to the dangers of Covid-19 than other professions, said Debbie Mensink, a public health advisor in Amsterdam.

"There is a heightened risk. Sex workers already have a heightened health risk due to their line of work... because people get so close to each other."

Mona, however, said she is not worried and will take precautions.

She added a few new items to her collection of latex outfits, stiletto heels and tasseled whips to adhere to the protocol: a leather face cover with metal studs, black gloves and surgical face masks.

"I don't get unemployment benefits if I get sick, so if someone shows up and starts coughing or sneezing in my hallway I'll say 'Can you come back another time?' because if I am ill for a week that means a week without income."

Mona made some income during lockdown by doing webcam shows, but said that if the government-imposed measures had remained in place much longer she would have spent her entire savings.

As the number of new infections and Covid-19 deaths fell fast in recent weeks, the Netherlands lifted most lockdown measures. The country has recorded more than 50,000 infections and over 6,000 deaths since mid-March.

Despite the improved Covid-19 statistics, people are advised to keep 1.5 meters (nearly 5 feet) apart and must wear face masks while riding public transportation.

Those rules won't apply to sex workers and health authorities recommend avoiding face-to-face encounters.

"We advise against literally getting in each others' faces, where you can breathe in each others' warm breath," said Mensink, the health worker. "We also advise against kissing because saliva carries the virus and you could transfer it that way."

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