The Indonesian government has set out a new rule; villagers who refuse to wear masks will be forced to dig graves for the victims of COVID-19.

This rule is being implemented in one part of rural Indonesia, as the government hopes that the rule will convince the public to do their part to help stop the spread of the virus in the country.

Grave-digging for COVID-19 deaths

On September 9, three middle-aged men and five minors in the Cerme district of Gresik Regency, East Jave, were the first ones to be given the unique punishment, according to authorities.

Though wearing a mask is mandatory in public throughout Indonesia, there have been a few of the population that is reluctant to wear masks and practice social distancing.

According to medical experts, the lack of public vigilance has made it more difficult for Indonesian authorities to stop the spread of the virus, which has infected almost 230,000 people in the country.

More than 160,000 of the patients have recovered from the virus, while 9,100 have died, according to the data shown by the Indonesian Health Ministry. 

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As the cases of coronavirus increased in the recent months, the government in Indonesia passed a law in July 2020 requiring everyone 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 now in charge of enforcing mask restrictions across the country.

Social punishment

In Cerme, the three pillars give those people caught not wearing a mask the option of accepting a fine of 150,000 rupiahs or $10 or accepting a "social punishment," according to Suyono, the district leader.

Suyono told the media that most people had accepted the social punishment set by the local government. Social punishment usually involves push-ups or cleaning, according to Insider.

However, he hopes options like grave-digging would be educational, and it can help show firsthand the real and serious effect of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the authorities in the capital of Jakarta adopted a similar idea earlier this month. A man was required to sit in a coffin in public after he was caught not wearing a mask.

But it is not clear if these types of punishments have a positive effect, and if it did increase mask-wearing in the country.

Indonesia has failed to flatten the curve for months, and the infections are still on the rise. In Southeast Asia, the Philippines has recorded more cases.

On September 13, large-scale social restrictions were put in place in Jakarta; the second time authorities have been forced to do so since the pandemic began, according to USA Today.

With cases still increasing, the health infrastructure in the city is nearing a breaking point. The emergency units in all 20 Jakarta hospitals approved to treat COVID-19 patients are now full, according to the statement released by officials on September 14.

As there are still no signs of the cases going down, traveling is still prohibited in the country. The borders and the airports are still closed until further notice.

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