Thai sex workers wait for customers as Covid-19 restrictions tighten


Footage shows Thai sex workers struggling to find customers today (Aug 4) amid tightening lockdown restrictions to try and tackle rising Covid-19 cases.

The prostitutes working on the Sukhumvit Road in the capital Bangkok were busy with several tourists a day before the pandemic struck in March but now sometimes don’t see a single customer all week.

‘I have to work because I have nowhere else to go,’ said Noon, 32, a transgender sex worker. ‘My room is here in Bangkok and I don’t want to return to my family in the village so I have to find money somehow.’

Analysts at research company Havocscope estimated the Thai sex trade was worth around USD 6.4 billion a year – around three per cent of the country’s annual GDP.

However, tourists were effectively banned from visiting the country on March 22 last year and since then travel restrictions have remained in place.

A third outbreak of cases which started in April has lead to more than 20,000 infections a day, as of August 4. Ministers have closed bars, restaurants and introduced 9pm curfews as they try to vaccinate residents.

Scientists warn that the restrictions could tighten if cases continue to increase.

Noon added: ‘I have had a vaccine, so I’m lucky. I’m not worried about getting sick but I’m worried about starving. If foreigners don’t come back soon I’ll struggle, I don’t know how I will carry on.’

Economists have warned that it could be another five years before the country’s tourism industry returns to pre-pandemic levels. 

Two years ago tourism made up an estimated 21 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, generating 1.8 trillion baht in revenue. However, the country’s National Economic and Social Development Council predicted that it could be another five years before similar numbers are seen. 

Analysts said that between now and 2026, around seven million workers will continue to be affected by the economic harm from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thailand has recorded 672,385 Covid-19 cases and 5,503 deaths. Around half of the estimated 10 million residents in Bangkok have been vaccinated.