"If a global health pandemic can't stop the demand for sex workers, then we really need to be more realistic in our approach to the industry."
That is the stark message this weekend from the Director of Sex Workers' Alliance Ireland (SWAI) and sex worker Kate McGrew, as she called upon the Government to decriminalise Ireland's sex industry.
Ms McGrew was speaking as she fielded calls from scores of workers who are being pressurised to provide 'in-person' services under the lockdown.
The organisation says many have no savings or ability to go online and are living hand-to-mouth as they wait for the crisis to pass.
The situation is leading workers to risk their health and many clients are willing to flout the 2km ban, while offering double the money for services.
Clients are also threatening workers by warning that if they don't see them during the pandemic, they will not hear from them once the lockdown has been lifted.
As Ms McGrew explains: "When I get asked 'will you come to see me?' and I say no, they offer more money. I have been offered definitely twice my rates, and my rates happen to be high."
She said "for people who are really hard up for cash, it is a scary prospect [to lose a client long term] and they consider taking them on.
"So the reality is that some workers are still in a situation where they are having to take in clients. We are hearing all kind of stories about how clients are finding ways to make this situation land in their favour".
SWAI, the only frontline sex worker-led organisation in Ireland, is now working to provide sex workers with Covid-19 hardship payments, because many are too scared to access State welfare funds.
Although sex workers can apply for the Covid-19 payment, few are willing to take the risk: "Some are afraid to draw any attention to themselves for fear of being evicted, or because they fear their children being taken away, so there are very real consequences, and, in a situation like this, people do not want to [take the risk]. It is really unfortunate," she explained. "If we were allowed to have our work decriminalised, if we were given labour rights, if we could decrease the stigma and [if people would] stop dehumanising us, then things would change, but instead this is the backdrop."
To date, the organisation has given around 70 €100 payments to sex workers through crowd-funded donations, while an additional 160 workers are in the process of accessing the fund.
The Nordic Model, a sex purchase ban, was introduced in 2017 and means that anyone found working together within the sex industry could face a jail sentence, even though they may be doing so for safety reasons. Since the law was introduced, SWAI says it has forced sex workers to work in isolation, leading to a 92pc increase in violence against them.