Locals in a rural Indonesian village who refused to wear face masks are being forced to dig graves for victims of Covid-19 by local authorities.
At least eight people including eight minors were given the unique punishment on September 9 in Cerme district of Gresik Regency, East Java.
Officials hope to that a little bit of manual labor and empathy will convince others to do their part to help stop the pandemic.
Mask-wearing 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.
Experts say the lack of public vigilance has made it more difficult for Indonesian authorities to stymie the spread of the virus. Indonesia so far has recorded 240,687 infections. While about 175,000 people have recovered, around 9,500 have died according to worldometer.
As cases spiked in recent months, Indonesia’s government passed a law in July requiring people to wear masks in public, but left it to local officials to determine punishments for noncompliance. 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.
In Cerme, 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,” according to the district’s leader, Suyono.
Suyono hopes options like grave-digging would be educational and show “firsthand the real and serious effect of Covid-19.” None of those punished were present when the dead were buried, Suyono said.
Authorities in the capital of Jakarta adopted a similar idea earlier this month. A man there was required to sit in a coffin in public after being caught not wearing a mask.
However, it’s not clear if these types of penalties have increased mask-wearing in Indonesia. The country has failed to flatten the curve for months and infections are still on the rise.