Study links virus fallout to suicides
Scholars are urging the government to review virus lockdown measures and make its financial relief scheme more inclusive by claiming that job losses and business closures are spurring suicide cases.
The scholars were Atthajak Sattayanurak of Chiang Mai University's Humanities Faculty; Somchai Preechasilpakul, an associate professor of constitutional law at Chiang Mai University and Prapas Pintobtaeng, lecturer of political science at Chulalongkorn University.
They are members of a research team studying suicide and attempted suicide cases after March 26, a few weeks after the government imposed emergency measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.
According to its study, 38 cases were attributed to the lockdown, business closures, job losses and furloughs, noting 28 resulted in deaths.
The team said that while the decreasing number of new coronavirus infections is apparent, lockdown measures have culminated in job losses following the shutdown of businesses.
It concluded that the government's measures were lopsided because they do not alleviate the social and economic impacts of the restrictions.
The lockdown caused negative impacts on people within a week of it being imposed according to the team which said it gathered news reports about suicide with links to the government's lockdown measures from April 1 to Tuesday.
The team stressed that the number of suicide cases caused by economic repercussions could exceed the number of Covid-19 patient deaths. Fifty people had died from the novel coronavirus in the kingdom as of yesterday.
"While the government holds daily press briefings on the Covid-19 situation and mobilises resources to slow the spread of the virus, it fails to address [the issue of suicide] due to the restrictions," the team said.
It noted that suicide cases could have been prevented had financial assistance been more accessible to distressed people.
"Suicide cases indicate the government's gross failure in handling the situation," the team said. "Some people were driven to take their own lives."
"In several cases, delay and inefficiency in the 5,000-baht cash handout scheme was the cause of suicides," it added.
The team said local authorities should come up with a plan to distribute food and basic goods to people severely affected by the ailing economy. It also suggested that businesses in low-risk areas should be allowed to reopen.
The team said if the kingdom does not consider the virus's socioeconomic impacts, Thailand may see more suicide cases.
"If this happens, we cannot say we have succeeded in handling the pandemic," it said.
According to the team, suicide and suicide attempt cases examined showed that 27 were male and 11 were female with an average age of 40. Thirty five were employers and self-employed workers, while three were small-time entrepreneurs.
The Finance Ministry has paid 5,000 baht in monthly assistance to four million out of 27 million registrants.