Police in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, have arrested about 50 sex workers who have been visiting coronavirus isolation centers in some hotels to offer their services. Jean Claude Tsila, the capital’s administrative officer, disclosed this on state broadcaster Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) on Friday.
“We were reliably informed that some persons confined to some hotels in Yaounde due to the coronavirus pandemic were receiving prostitutes inside their rooms,” he said.
A report by Daily Nation said the prostitutes earn at least $30 a night, and in spite of the risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus, they have been approaching travelers from Europe to offer their services.
Tsila said the “smuggling of prostitutes” into hotel rooms is a “legendary act of indiscipline”, adding that he has beefed up security around hotels in the capital hosting people suspected to be infected.
Commercial sex workers who would be seen on the streets of the capital, Yaounde, would also be arrested and be charged with spreading the deadly virus, he said. Those arrested may face prison terms of up to three years and a fine.
Cameroon recorded its first case of COVID-19 on February 6. The number of confirmed cases has increased to 92, as of Saturday, and two people have died.
As part of measures to stop the spread of the virus, the central African country has closed its borders and suspended the issuance of visas into the country. Schools have also been closed, with calls on Muslims and Christians to limit their numbers in worship houses and pray at home instead.
Many individuals and businesses, including commercial sex workers in the country, say they have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic as they can’t fend for themselves because they are currently out of business.
Just last week, sex workers in South Africa called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to add them to the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme because they have been affected financially by the spread of the virus.
“In emergency situations such as these, they cannot claim for any financial aid from the government during times when they cannot work. Since the outbreak, sex workers have recorded a drastic decrease of their clientele, which has put many of them in dire financial strains that further pushes them to the margins and exposes them to risky sexual behaviour and violence,” a joint statement by the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the National Movement of Sex Workers, Sisonke said.
“We would like to remind the president that, during this adversity that we find ourselves in, it is important to listen to the vulnerable and respect the wishes of sex workers in South Africa and heed their call for the decriminalisation of sex work. The criminalisation of sex work excludes sex workers from accessing basic human rights, including labour rights.”