Jakarta Post | P.J. Leo

Anti-Maskers In Indonesia Are Being Forced To Dig Graves For COVID-19 Victims

As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, scientists have gathered increasing evidence that wearing masks can help slow the disease's spread, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

However, even in areas where governments have passed ordinances or legislation requiring face masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, stubborn resistance remains, and many are having trouble figuring out the best ways to enforce those laws. Will a series of warning and fines be enough, or should jail time potentially be included? It's hard to say for sure, but one country has found a strategy that is at least capturing some attention.

Anti-maskers in Indonesia may have good reason to think twice about not donning a face covering in the future.

Facebook | Mushahid Pathan

According to the Jakarta Post, at least eight people who have refused to wear masks where required by law have been put to work digging graves for COVID-19 victims. Authorities in Cerme district reportedly decided on the punishment as a means of addressing a shortage of grave diggers.

"There are only three available gravediggers at the moment, so I thought I might as well put these people to work with them," Cerme district head Suyono was quoted as saying by Tribun News.

It's worth noting that the anti-maskers were not forced to handle any bodies.

Facebook | CCTV Asia Pacific

They were merely forced to dig graves and prepare the burial plots. All bodies of COVID-19 victims were handled by local health officials outfitted with proper PPE. The local authorities would much rather not add to the body count in an area where case numbers are continuing to rise.

Indonesia does have a national mask mandate.

Facebook | CCTV Asia Pacific

However, resistance to masks remains widespread. Although the mask mandate was passed in April, the law had to be strengthened in July after a survey in East Java found that as many as 70% of people there were refusing to wear masks, Jakarta Globe reported.

Under the law, mask refusal can be punished by fines or community service, which Suyono seized upon in creating his unique punishment. "Hopefully this can create a deterrent effect against violations," Suyono said.

Masks are seen as a relatively easy, inexpensive way to reduce the disease's spread.

Jakarta Post | J.P. Leo

Indonesia, the fourth-most populous country in the world after the U.S., has seen 225,030 cases of COVID-19 so far, according to Worldometers info, with 8,965 deaths as of this writing. Where methods like testing and contact tracing are lacking due to resources, masks are seen as a potential difference-maker.

h/t: The Jakarta Post