Madagascar Forces Coronavirus Mask Violators to Clean Streets

AP/Alexander JOE

Police in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on Monday introduced a somewhat unconventional punishment against citizens caught not wearing masks in public, forcing violators to clean the city’s streets.

The new rule came into effect this week after President Andry Rajoelina announced the compulsory wearing of sanitary masks outdoors in public as a condition for the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions across the country’s major cities imposed in response to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

Originally, authorities had warned citizens caught ignoring the rules that they would face community service. They may not have anticipated that the service would involve sweeping the capital’s streets and picking up trash.

“From Monday, April 20th, people going out of their homes will be required to wear masks. A free distribution is planned from April 20th to 26th, in the towns that have registered contact cases (Antananarivo, Toamasina and Fianarantsoa),” reads guidance on the country’s tourist site. “Starting from Monday, April 27, anyone not wearing a mask will be required to perform community service (cleaning of gardens, schools, or streets).”

In an interview with local television, the leader of the coronavirus response operations General Elak Olivier Andriakaja said that the punishment was fair because citizens had been made aware of the new rules through an awareness campaign. He added that around 70 percent of people were obeying the rule.

General Elak Olivier Andriakaja, leader of the anti-coronavirus operations, told state television that most people were respecting the rules.

“Seventy percent of people on the street respected the rule … because they are scared of having to sweep pavements,” he said. “Measures were taken before the sanctions fell into place to raise awareness and distribute mouth covers. I think that’s enough and that sanctions must now be applied.”

Police deputy head Christian Rakotobe told AFP that around 500 people were penalized on Monday alone for violating the rules, 25 of whom were forced to start cleaning the streets immediately.

Among the other somewhat bizarre guidance on the country’s tourism website, the government also boasted of a new herbal remedy “based on a medicinal plant called artemisia which has curative and preventive virtues to fight coronavirus symptoms.” According to researchers, there is currently no scientifically proven treatment for the virus.

As of Wednesday, the island of 26.26 million people has reported only 128 cases of the Chinese coronavirus. Of the infected, 90 patients have already recovered and no fatalities have been recorded.

Madagascar is not the only nation to introduce unusual punishments for those disobeying lockdown measures. Last week, officials in Indonesia’s Central Java began forcing quarantine violators to stay in a haunted house in isolation.

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