The closure of all entertainment outlets — from cinemas and theatres to nightlife venues such as bars and nightclubs — announced by the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 on Tue evening (24 Mar) has become part of the Government’s stricter safe distancing measures, in the wake of a growing number of cases of infection in Singapore.
Operators of legal brothels, however, were in for a shock as the Anti-Vice Department of the Singapore Police Force informed them the next day that they were also required to close starting Thu night at 11.59pm until the end of next month on 30 Apr — the same time frame given to entertainment outlets specified above.
The police’s briefing surprised the legal brothel operators, as there had been no mention of licensed brothels in the announcement, and they assumed that the measures only applied to nightclubs and bars.
Pimps and ladies — both of whom work seven days a week in the said brothels — are only paid when they have customers. The closure requirement would mean that they will be faced with a month without income.
“What to do? I will just treat this as a month of holiday then,” lamented a pimp at one of the brothels along the legal red light district in Geylang.
They are also prepared for the possibility that the closure will be extended over a month.
Another pimp said: “We will have to wait till around 20 something of April to know whether the date will be extended.”
In addition to the temporary closure of the legal brothels, the anti-vice police squad limits the movement of the working ladies to the vicinities of brothels even when they are not working. It is said that a half an hour time limit is also imposed for the time the ladies can leave the premises.
Despite being faced with the prospect of no income for the next month or for possibly longer, few of the ladies working in such brothels will opt to leave the country, due to the hassle of the departure procedures involving the cancellation of the permit issued by the Anti-Vice Department.
Furthermore, once they exit the country, there is no assurance that they can ever return to the country due to the existing policy on former legal sex workers.
According to the operators, there has not been any mention of assistance to their business or employees.
Pimps, despite being Singaporeans, are not eligible for any wage support, as the brothels are not licensed business and they do not draw a monthly pay.
The closure of entertainment venues is a part of a suite of stricter measures rolled out by the Government to ensure safe distancing in a bid to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 in Singapore.
Gatherings outside of work and school are now limited to 10 persons or fewer. Organisers and attendees are required to maintain physical distancing of at least one metre between individuals in settings where interactions are non-transient.
Other public venues such as retail malls, museums and attractions, where contact is more transient, may remain open, but with additional restrictions.