Follow rules or bury victims: Indonesia gets tough on violators

An Indonesian man wearing a face mask and a face shield enjoys the partial lockdown, on his bicycle in Jakarta on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 02 June 2020

Follow rules or bury victims: Indonesia gets tough on violators

  • East Java second worst-hit province by coronavirus

JAKARTA: 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.

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.

On Monday, the Health Ministry reported 28 deaths and 467 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the fatalities’ count to 1,641 and the total number of infections to 26,940 across the country.

While the capital city recorded 137 new confirmed cases, East Java reported 65 new cases, Papua 50, South Sulawesi 45 and West Java 34. 

In East Java’s regencies of Tuban and Sidoarjo, the regional administration has manned checkpoints to monitor the movement of people in and out of the regions or clean 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 is 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 told Arab News. “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,” Didi, who goes by one name only and is the owner of Didi’s Stall in Sanur Kauh, told Arab News. “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.


Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

Updated 15 August 2020

Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

  • Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio is still endemic
  • Since Jan., Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health officials on Saturday launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio as part of efforts aimed at eliminating the crippling disease amid a steady decline in fatalities and infections from the coronavirus, which had recently overwhelmed the country’s fragile health system.
The anti-polio campaign, which began amid tight security, aims to vaccinate as many as 34 million children across Pakistan, including former Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan, a government statement said.
Medical workers participating in the drive against polio were seen adhering to social distancing regulations as they wore face masks and gloves while going house-to-house to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.
“I am hopeful that parents will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign,” said Faisal Sultan, an adviser to the prime minister on health issues.
According to Rana Safdar, who heads the government’s polio program, similar campaigns against polio will be launched in October, November and December.
Earlier Saturday, Pakistan’s military said Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, praised Islamabad’s success in the fight against coronavirus in a telephone call to the country’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. It said Gates also discussed the resumption of the drive against polio.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. The nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped Pakistan and other places worldwide fight the disease.
Pakistan had hoped to eliminate the disease by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But there was a surge in new cases the following year. Since January, Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country, including the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban and other militants regularly stage attacks on polio teams and security forces escorting them because they claim the anti-polio drive is part of an alleged Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence. Attacks on polio teams increased after it was revealed that a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign was used as a ruse by the CIA in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011 in Pakistan.
Pakistan halted the drive against polio in March and resumed it last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19.
On Saturday, Pakistan reported only 9 new deaths from the new virus in the past 24 hours, increasing the country’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 6,162. So far, Pakistan has reported 288,047 cases and officials say about 93% of the patients recovered since February, when the country reported its first confirmed case.