Indonesians caught without a mask forced to dig graves for Covid-19 victims


Villagers who refuse to wear masks are being forced to dig graves for victims of Covid-19 by local authorities in one part of rural Indonesia, in the hopes that a little bit of manual labour and empathy will convince others to do their part to help stop the pandemic.

Three middle-aged men and five minors in Cerme district of Gresik Regency, East Java, were given the unique punishment on September 9, said authorities.

Though the wearing of masks is mandatory in public throughout Indonesia, there has been a vocal segment of the population that has been reluctant to wear masks and practice social distancing.

As cases spiked in recent months, Indonesia’s government passed a law in July requiring people to wear masks in public, but let it to local officials to determine punishments for non-compliance.

A joint team called the “three pillars” – which consists of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, Indonesian National Police and local law enforcement – are in charge of enforcing mask restrictions across the country.

According to the district’s leader, Suyono, the “three pillars” gives those caught not wearing a mask the option of accepting a fine of 150, 000 rupiah ($10) or accepting what the government calls social punishment.

Even though people usually choose social punishment, which involves push-ups or cleaning, but he hopes options like grave-digging would be more educational and show “firsthand the real and serious effect of Covid-19”.

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