Jelena Vermilion has lost her main source of income since the COVID-19 outbreak — the in-person sex work she relies on.

Vermilion, based in Hamilton, Ont., now only receives requests via text message or email from clients who want to flout social-distancing practices and compromise her safety.

She declines them.

“I stopped working completely, not only for the concern of the risk to my own health but to the community and my partner,” said Vermilion, who is also the executive director of the Sex Workers’ Action Program in Hamilton (SWAP).

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The outbreak of the novel coronavirus changed the way many Canadian sex workers like Vermilion operate nearly overnight.

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Physical-distancing measures, closed businesses — including strip clubs and massage parlours — and concern around the transmission of COVID-19 render in-person sex work incredibly challenging, if not impossible.

“For most sex workers, their income has completely dissolved,” said Jenny Duffy, a board member at Maggie’s,