Follow rules or bury victims: Indonesia gets tough on violators

Indonesia’s East Java province is taking extra measures to ensure people obey social distancing rules, with violators facing penalties such as burying coronavirus victims or cleaning up public places.

The province is battling a spike in coronavirus infections, making it the second-worst hit by the outbreak in the country’s national caseload.

On Saturday, East Java accounts for 5,835 cases of infections out of the 30,514  across the country. The province reported 17 more deaths, bringing the fatalities count to 463, out of the 1,801 total deaths in Indonesia.

“East Java registers the highest surge of infections cases today with 286 cases, and at the same time, the province reports the highest number of recoveries with 154 patients recovered,” COVID-19 national task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto said in his daily press briefing.

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Residents of Surabaya’s Ampel sub-district were wearing face masks as the religious tourism area is closed due to coronavirus restrictions. Photo: The Parrot/Nunung Tejo

The national government has made it mandatory to wear face masks in public places since early April, with regional governments tasked with distributing face masks for free to people.

But many have ignored the rule, forcing regional leaders to come up with social shaming tactics to reprimand violators.

In East Java’s regencies of Tuban and Sidoarjo, the regional administration has manning checkpoints to monitor the movement of people in and out of the regions or cleaning up public places as punishment.

“Another alternative to social sanctions for repeat social restriction offenders is being part of the team that conducts burials for those who died of COVID-19,” Tuban Regent Fathul Huda said in a May 27 statement released by the local administration. “Sellers and customers who do not wear facial masks in markets will be told to go home.”

Sidoarjo, one of the regencies with the highest number of infections in the province, also imposed the same rule.

The regency and neighboring regency of Gresik are part of the provincial capital’s Surabaya metropolitan area that imposed prolonged large-scale social restrictions, which are due to end on June 8 after they were extended for the third time since late April.

Dimas Rahmad Saputra, a food and beverage businessman in Gresik, said locals in a village in Trenggalek regency were keen on practicing social distancing when he paid a condolence visit upon the death of his cousin in Kendalrejo village.

“The villagers kept a distance from me, being from the red-zone Gresik,” he said. “They kept reminding me not to shake hands with anyone, even with my aunt and uncle. People who did not wear masks were not allowed to go to the burial.

Each village set up its own barrier to the village entrance. They really comply with the social restrictions because there are many elderly people, so I understand they are just trying to protect the elders from the risks of being infected.”

Residents on the resort island of Bali are abiding by local customs and values, in addition to formal regulations to control the spread of the virus.

In Sanur Kauh village, on the southeastern part of the island, the village customary board requires violators to pay a fine of 5 kilos of rice.

“There are six villages in the area including Sanur Kauh that impose such customary sanction, but so far none has been reprimanded for that,” said Didi, who goes by one name only and is the owner of Didi’s Stall in Sanur Kauh, said.

“We are committed to abiding by the rules to get rid of the virus from Bali, otherwise tourists would not come here as tourism is our lifeline.”

Bali’s deputy governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, on Sunday said that the island was limiting the movement of people entering and leaving the area as part of its virus control measures.

Government officials and people from the private sector are working to curb the spread of the virus. Bali residents returning from work or studying abroad, and individuals with nuclear family members who are dead or gravely ill are among those allowed to enter the island.

This story has been updated from its original one in Arab News

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