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Amsterdam's red light districts get the green light to reopen... with gloves on


LIGHTS OUT: Amsterdam’s main red light area shut in March

LIGHTS OUT: Amsterdam’s main red light area shut in March

LIGHTS OUT: Amsterdam’s main red light area shut in March

It was a surprise to everyone - especially sex workers - when Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said that from July 1 they could return to work.

Of all the "contact" professions, this was dogged with most concern in the Netherlands, which is reopening after seeing daily Covid-19 deaths fall to single figures. The country has had the biggest percentage drop in weekly cases of 45 countries, one analysis found.

Sex workers, often unable to access government support because of how they are registered, have been keen to restart work. Unions even sent the government a protocol of measures from "don't shake hands" to banning positions in the client's "moist breath zone".

"It's a contact job like the hairdresser and masseur, and so they need to ask in advance if [clients] have any symptoms," said Rutte. "We asked for detailed advice about which positions were possible and which weren't from the RIVM public health institute, but there was no further explanation."

In the main red light area in Amsterdam this weekend, window brothels were being spruced up ready for work.

The Red Light United union expects sex workers to wear gloves and avoid oral sex, while Andre van Dorst, director of the VER union for relaxation businesses, said safety would come first: "There are already public health institute hygiene protocols, which were no problem to introduce in the industry and are in general complied with. The same thing will happen with corona because nobody trusts this virus."

The Netherlands started what Rutte called an intelligent lockdown on March 16, as schools, bars, restaurants, gyms and contact professions were shut and people asked to keep their distance and work from home.

However, faced with a 6pc economic contraction, Dutch experts now recommend broad-scale reopening, with limits, especially inside, and 1.5m distancing or face masks.

Economist Mathijs Bouman said: "Economically, we have managed it quite well but we have a rather high death rate, especially in nursing homes, and a lot of that was probably preventable. Our laid-back approach, especially in testing, was clearly not the right one.

"We are going to the boundaries of what's possible at the moment - but since one third of our money is earned abroad we are still a cork floating on a wild international sea."