One country in southeast Asia has introduced a depraved punishment for people who have been flouting a face mask rule. It is a wake-up call.
One country in southeast Asia has introduced a depraved punishment for people who have been flouting a face mask rule. It is a wake-up call.

Indonesia’s creative anti-masker penalty

As far as public health messaging goes, Indonesia is in a world of its own.

In April, they forced quarantine jumpers to spend time locked in abandoned homes that superstitious locals believed were haunted.

At the start of this month, they dressed officials head-to-toe in hazmat gear and had them carry coffins through bustling Jakarta streets as a wake-up call to people who had yet to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

But they've now gone one step further, forcing anti-maskers and those who continue to flout face mask rules to dig graves for the mounting number of dead bodies.

The Jakarta Post reports that eight people in East Java the first to be handed the punishment for failing to wear a face covering in public.

 

Indonesian medical workers at a drive through COVID-19 testing operation. Picture: Ed Wray/Getty Images
Indonesian medical workers at a drive through COVID-19 testing operation. Picture: Ed Wray/Getty Images

 

Two offenders were tasked with digging a single grave - one given a shovel and the other given wooden planks to support the corpse.

RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus updates

Suyono, who is the head of the local district enforcing the macabre penalty, said it was a win-win because there were currently not enough men to carry out the grave digging duties as the death toll soars.

"Hopefully this can create a deterrent effect against violations," Suyono said.

Coronavirus cases in Indonesia continue to climb at a rate much faster than neighbouring countries.

The Health Ministry announced on Monday that there were more than 3000 new cases, bringing the total number of people infected to 221,000.

The 100 new deaths on Monday bring the state's grim death toll to almost 9000.

 

An Indonesian medical worker peers out from a tent in front of a hospital on September 14. Picture: Ed Wray/Getty Images
An Indonesian medical worker peers out from a tent in front of a hospital on September 14. Picture: Ed Wray/Getty Images

 

Part of the problem is that people aren't following the rules, but there's more to it. Testing rates are low because there is such a stigma attached to the virus there.

It is forcing politicians to come up with more and more creative measures to get the message across.

In April, the head of Sragen Regency, Kusdinar Untung Yuni Sukowati, locked new arrivals on the densely-population Java Island - people who had baulked at quarantine laws - in houses believed by locals to be haunted.

But first, the abandoned houses had to be renovated and converted for people to spent two weeks isolating in.

Sukowati told AFP he would the houses were treated at detainment centres.

"If there's an empty and haunted house in the village, put people in there and lock them up," he said.

 

 

The coffin-carrying exercise that saw officials carrying dummies through large cities backfired on authorities, NPR reports.

On social media, the public claimed it was a poor use of money and that priorities were out of step given there are so many people struggling to put food on the table.

Indonesia's handling of the crisis was brought into question again last week when authorities denied they are running out of space to bury the dead.

The ABC reports that the Governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, claimed alternative burial plots were being made available to cater to the number of bodies.

"We have prepared several alternative places since March, not just recently," he said.

Originally published as Indonesia's creative anti-masker penalty


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