The use of a mask has become a clear object of controversy in many parts of the world. Not wearing or partially covering with them – the famous uncover nose– It is usually penalized with economic sanctions, but in Indonesia, the country with the most fatalities in Southeast Asia, they have decided that this is no longer enough to dissuade people from going without a mask. The authorities of Gresik, east of the island of Java, have devised an unusual –and macabre– punishment for offenders: have them dig graves of those killed by Covid-19.
In total, eight people who had violated health protocol by not wearing a mask in public spaces were sent by local authorities to a cemetery in the town of Ngabetan, as published by the newspaper The Jakarta Post. “There are only three gravediggers available at the moment, so I thought it would be best to put them to work with them,” explained Suyono (who like many Indonesians identifies only by name), head of the Cerme district in Gresik.
Although unusual, the decision by Suyono and his team responds to the desperation of the Indonesian authorities to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The official explained that the cases continue to grow in his district, which has led to tougher distancing measures and fines for offenders.
The rebound in that part of Java is in line with what is happening in the rest of the country, which this Wednesday broke a new record for daily infections, with 3,963 cases, derived in part from the greater number of tests carried out among the population: more than 30,000 in one day. The archipelago, inhabited by 267 million people, registers the highest number of deaths from covid-19 in Southeast Asia (8,965 deaths), higher than that of all the countries in the region combined.
Thus, Suyono hoped that the peculiar sanction, considered a community service – which is part of the penalties contemplated for breaching the anti-covid regulations in that region–, “Generate a deterrent effect and prevent further violations of regulations,” according to publishes The Jakarta Post. Divided into groups of two, while one was digging the grave, another was in charge of spreading wooden boards inside the niche. “We urge people to wear a mask,” urged local police chief Nur Amin in parallel.
This is not the only heterodox decision taken in Indonesia to ensure that the population obeys the imposed measures. The deputy director of the national police, General Gatot Eddy Pramono, recently announced a plan to include “community leaders” and “local gangs” in awareness-raising on health protocols. “We don’t recruit gangsters, we involve them,” Pramono defended last Monday in parliament. A controversial initiative, since these gangs, normally present in public parking lots or markets to offer security in exchange for money, are not very well perceived by the population.
Their assistance, Pramono defended, will serve to compensate for the limited number of police and military necessary to discipline the population on the need to wear a mask and respect the safety distance. In addition to these groups, the police command assured that they will also have the help of public service motorcycle drivers. “We will use all available resources. If we do this together, we will stop the transmission of the virus, ”added Pramono, who is also deputy director of the committee in charge of managing the pandemic in Indonesia.
Some measures as not very extraordinary that seek to avoid more situations such as that of the capital, Jakarta, which on September 14 began its second partial closure, with an expected duration of two months. Less strict than the first, decreed in April, is imposed when in just ten days, from September 1 to September 11, the city has registered close to 4,000 new cases, which represent 25 percent of the total recorded in the previous six months.