entertainment bars go empty in phuket, thailand amid the covid-19 pandemic. Photo by Thomas De Cian/NurPhoto via AP
A man’s search for companionship went viral this week because of the peculiar requirement he wrote on social media: He wanted an escort who could prove she had COVID-19.“Looking for the infected only. Work starts at 10 p.m.,” someone writing on behalf of a client wrote in a Line messaging group, a screenshot of which has been widely shared on Facebook since Jan. 11. “The client wants to be positive [for COVID-19],” the post continued, adding that the female companion should be able to prove she has the virus by presenting an antigen test kit with “two lines” indicating a positive result.
The man offered 3,000 to 5,000 Thai baht ($90 to $150) for the service, stating that he only wanted to breathe on one another rather than trade bodily fluids. He threw in a 600 baht ($18) commission for anyone who could act as a broker.He then specified that he wanted an “EN up, EN only” service, which was code for “entertainment only,” with alcohol and party drugs allowed but no sex, according to local reports.As much of the world fights to stem the spread of the virus, one man’s quest to become infected bucks the trend. A masochistic kink perhaps? The suspicion, according to insurance officials and Thai media, is that he planned to make an insurance claim. In Thailand, insurance companies have been offering plans covering COVID-19, with payouts as much as 200,000 baht ($6,000) for clients who get infected. Nikkei reported in July that cash claims from COVID-19 insurance policies in the country rose tenfold between the start of the pandemic and mid-2021, prompting some policy providers to stop offering cover and an investigation by Thailand’s Office of Insurance Commission. Videos of families celebrating after receiving payouts from COVID-19 insurance policies went viral last year, with the Thai General Insurance Association warning people that fraud charges would be filed against policyholders who deliberately contract the virus.
“There is even a young lady selling inhalers on her Facebook page that she says contain the coronavirus,” a senior official at the OIC told Nikkei. “Buyers can use the inhalers to get infected and then claim compensation.”A local report said an investigation has identified the man responsible for the recent advert and found that he did own a COVID-19 insurance plan. The case has caught the attention of the insurance authority, which warned of legal action, saying the man’s attempt to deliberately contract the virus “can be flagged as insurance fraud and may constitute a criminal offense.”Anyone found guilty of such an offense may face imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 300,000 baht ($9,000), or both, according to local reports.Some analysts have attributed the trend to rising poverty. Thailand’s tourism-reliant economy has taken a nosedive as borders have closed during the pandemic, experiencing its most severe economic recession since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and plunging almost 800,000 people into poverty.An attempted reopening to foreign tourists has been scuppered by the Omicron variant, with quarantine for international arrivals reimposed last month to combat its spread.Follow JC Gotinga on Twitter.