Mon, May 05, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Streetwalkers in Singapore are left in the cold by SARS

DPA , SINGAPORE

Even the world's oldest profession hasn't been spared by the impact of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), it was reported yesterday.

In desperation, some workers in the sex trade try to reassure would-be customers they are healthy and don't have the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which has left 25 people dead in Singapore.

A Thai streetwalker identified as Pern told The Sunday Times men eye her from a distance now, trying to figure out if she is well.

When they get around to negotiating a price, some touch her on the forehead to check for fever, the 27-year-old said.

Business is "bad, very bad now," Pern was quoted as saying.

Prior to the SARS outbreak she had seven or eight customers in one night. "Now, not more than five. Sometimes one or two."

Another Thai prostitute in Singapore's Geyland area said she used to earn S$300 (US$170) for four hours' work. Now she nets 20 percent of that amount.

Three prostitutes waiting outside a hotel yelled, "No SARS, No SARS" when approached.

Brothels have been "very quiet", said a helper at one of them.

"Mostly it's local men who stay away," he was quoted as saying. "The foreign workers don't read or know much about SARS."

"Previously our brothels had 30 customers a day," he added. "Now we don't even get 10."

The mostly Thai and Indonesian streetwalkers come here on 14-day social passes, conduct their business during their short stay and then return to their home countries with their earnings.

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