The claim: Eight people in Indonesia who refused to wear masks in public settings were forced to dig graves for COVID-19 patients
Many health experts and studies encourage mask-wearing to minimize the spread of COVID-19, but controversy surrounding mask effectiveness remains as some people refuse to wear a face covering regardless of rules in place.
While countries have taken different approaches on how to enforce face mask rules, a recent social media post is drawing attention to a unique punishment given to a group of people in Indonesia who broke the country’s face mask law.
“Eight people in Indonesia who refused to wear masks in public were ordered by local authorities to dig graves for COVID-19 victims,” reads a Sept. 20 Facebook post, accompanied by a photo of people digging at a burial site.
But many users in the comments were skeptical about the post. One user commented: “Wow, what a seriously photoshopped picture.”
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Eight people were ordered by local official to dig graves
As a punishment for violating Indonesian mask mandates, eight people who refused to wear face masks to combat the spread of COVID-19 were, in fact, ordered by a local official to dig graves, USA TODAY reported.
Leaders in Cerme, a district located in East Java, had set out stricter policies surrounding the enforcement of social distancing and mask-wearing due to a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Indonesian news site Tribune News reported that Suyono, the leader of Cerme, proposed gravedigging as a punishment to those who violated the local mask mandate due to a lack of gravediggers in the area.
“There are only three available gravediggers at the moment, so I thought I might as well put these people to work with them,” Suyono told Tribune News. “Hopefully, this can create a deterrent effect against violations.”
Suyono said two people were assigned to each grave, one to dig the grave and the other to insert wooden boards into the burial holes to support the corpses. However, the violators did not participate in the actual burials and were forbidden from touching the bodies, Australia SBS News reported. The task was left to health officials who were wearing proper protective equipment.
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Punishment options for those not wearing masks
CNN reported that a joint team consisting of Indonesian National Armed Forces, Indonesian National Police and local law enforcement, called the “three pillars,” are in charge of enforcing mask requirements.
Those in Creme caught not wearing a mask have the option of accepting a fine of 150,000 rupiah, which is equivalent to $10 in the U.S., or accepting a “social punishment,” according to Suyono.
Suyono told CNN that while most people have accepted social punishments, such as push-ups or cleaning, he hopes gravedigging would show “firsthand the real and serious effect of COVID-19” and added that none of the gravediggers were present when the bodies were buried.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Indonesia has the highest death toll in Southeast Asia, and Indonesia began requiring mask-wearing in April.
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Our rating: True
The claim that eight people in Indonesia were ordered to dig graves for COVID-19 victims as punishment for violating mask orders is rated TRUE, based on our research. A district leader in Indonesia proposed the punishment due to a lack of gravediggers and to educate people on the effects of the coronavirus.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Sept. 15, Eight people in Indonesia who refused to wear face masks ordered to dig graves for COVID-19 victims as punishment
Tribune News, Sept. 9, Eight People Sentenced to Dig Graves of Covid-19 Victims in Gresik Because of Not Wearing Masks
SBS News, Sept. 15, Anti-maskers in Indonesia have been forced to dig graves for coronavirus victims as punishment
CNN, Sept. 17, Indonesians caught without a mask forced to dig graves for Covid-19 victims
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Anti-maskers in Indonesia punished with gravedigging