PHUKET, Thailand — Around the corner from the teeth-whitening clinic and the tattoo parlor with offerings in Russian, Hebrew and Chinese, near the outdoor eatery with indifferent fried rice meant to fuel sunburned tourists or tired go-go dancers, the Hooters sign has lost its H.
The sign, in that unmistakable orange cartoon font, now simply reads, “ooters.”
Like so much at Patong Beach, the sleazy epicenter of sybaritic Thailand, Hooters is “temporarily closed.” Other establishments around the beach, on Phuket Island, are more firmly shuttered, their metal grills and padlocks rusted or their contents ripped out, down to the fixtures, leaving only the carcasses of a tourism industry ravaged by the coronavirus epidemic.
The sun, which usually draws 15 million people to Phuket each year, stays unforgiving in a downturn. The rays bleach “For Rent” signs on secluded villas and scorch greens on untended golf courses. They lay bare the emptiness of Patong streets where tuk-tuk drivers once prowled, doubling as touts for snorkeling trips or peep shows or Thai massages.
kept the virus at bay, although the economy suffered. But even as the last couple of weeks have brought repeated daily caseload highs, the Thai government is reacting slowly.
In early April, as cases began to mount, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reacted with a verbal shrug.
voted to recommend lifting a pause on the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine and adding a label about an exceedingly uncommon but potentially dangerous blood clotting disorder.