Indonesia Forcing Children Violating Mask Rule to Dig Graves of Coronavirus Victims

This picture taken in Jakarta on September 16, 2020 shows gravediggers working during a funeral for victims of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Pondok Ranggon cemetery in Jakarta. - Authorities in the Indonesian capital re-imposed a partial coronavirus lockdown on September 14 and vow to strictly isolate anyone testing positive …
ADEK BERRY/AFP via Getty Images

Officials in Indonesia are forcing those who fail to abide by legal requirements to wear a mask to fight Chinese coronavirus to dig the graves of coronavirus victims, news reports revealed on Thursday.

Legislators passed a law in July making the wearing of a mask a legal requirement generally but left its imposition and punishments at the discretion of local officials. The law was in part of a response to the resistance on the part of the general public to regularly wear masks in places where they may come in contact with infected people.

Authorities from the Cerme district of Gresik Regency, East Java, confirmed to CNN in a report published Thursday that they are forcing local villagers refusing to wear masks to dig the graves of people killed by the Chinese coronavirus to try to encourage them to change their ways. Among those already punished include three middle-aged men and five children, who dug the required graves last week.

One official identified as Suyono told the outlet that most people have accepted punishments such as a fine or an act of community service, but that it had not been sufficient for large-scale change on attitudes towards masks. He said he hoped that harsher penalties such as grave digging will show offenders “firsthand the real and serious effect of Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus].” Those carrying out the punishment are not present when the deceased is buried, he explained.

Indonesian authorities are notorious for handing out punishments unimaginable in Western countries against those violating coronavirus reactions, usually involving some kind of public shaming. In other parts of the country, offenders have been forced to lie in a coffin and asked to reflect on their actions as members of the public passed by.

Last month, police in East Java entered a wedding ceremony and made the groom perform push-ups for not wearing a mask. In April, officials in Central Java sent infected individuals to a haunted house after they were caught violating their 14-day quarantine period.

With a population of close to 270 million, Indonesia has performed better than other highly populated countries with regard to infection rate according to official government data, reporting around 232,628 cases and 9,222 deaths from the pandemic. This works out to approximately 32.97 deaths per million, well below that of most other countries. However, poverty and a widespread lack of testing mean that precise numbers are difficult to estimate.

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