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The official punishments follow high rates of the virus in the country

Coronavirus: People caught without facemasks forced to dig graves and get into coffins in Indonesia

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Officials said the punishments were helping to deter people from neglecting to cover their faces

People caught breaking COVID-19 rules in Indonesia are being made to dig graves and get into coffins.

The punishments being handed out in East Java and Jakarta follow a surge in infections.

The country is the fourth most populous in the world and has the highest COVID-19 death rate in Southeast Asia.

In Gresik, East Java, patrols spot and stop people who aren’t wearing face masks.

Offenders are given a choice of paying a fine of 150.000 IDR (£7.90) or doing coronavirus community service.

Digging graves for COVID-19 victims is being used as a punishment for not wearing a mask.Digging graves for COVID-19 victims is being used as a punishment in East Java and Jakarta

If they select the latter, they receive a high-viz jacket saying “violator” on the back, sign a register and then join the others guilty of the same in the back of a truck.

Loudspeakers on the side of the vehicle pump out the message that the passengers have broken the regulations as they make their way to the cemetery.

At the graveyard, if someone has died of coronavirus, then the team is asked to dig the grave. Others are told to tidy around the plots of the newly dead.

Elkat was caught driving without a facemask and opted for a punishment.

He is a part of a group shovelling loose earth on top of the grave of a local coronavirus victim.

“When I wear a motorbike helmet, it’s difficult to wear a mask. It was hurting my ears,” he says, “This is my fault and cleaning the grave is ok.”

He admits he’s a little frightened but also annoyed that he was brought to a cemetery for forgetting his mask.

But rules are being ignored far too often in East Java which has the most coronavirus deaths in Indonesia, so authorities in Gresik have decided to take a stand and make an example of people.

“The cemetery scares people and when they’re scared, they won’t break the rules and they will wear a mask,” explains Suyono, Chief of Cerme, Gresik, East Java.

The punishments are varied and inventive – in Jakarta some people were told to get into a coffin. In Gresik a group took turns lying in an ambulance.

“It was hot and I was scared,” Affandi says before admitting that it’s also effective and he won’t forget his mask again.

Officials in East Java told Sky News that in the last three weeks more than a million people have violated COVID-19 regulations across the region, but authorities say the public punishments encourage more people to follow the rules.

Following a pilot with 20 rule breakers in June which was shared on social media, Chief Suyono said the number of violators dropped, a change which could potentially save lives as coronavirus infection rates continue to soar.


About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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