Indonesia’s capital running out of space for COVID-19 dead

Government workers wearing protective suits carry a mock-up of a coffin of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victim as others carry signs displaying information about the number of COVID-19 cases on a main road to warn people about the dangers of the disease as the outbreak continues in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 28, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 September 2020

Indonesia’s capital running out of space for COVID-19 dead

  • Infections rising due to eased social restrictions

JAKARTA: A cemetery in Indonesia’s coronavirus-stricken capital could soon run out of land allocated for COVID-19 graves due to a rise in the number of burials taking place in recent weeks.  

A leader of one of the four gravedigging teams in East Jakarta's Pondok Ranggon cemetery said that management had assigned another plot – the last one available in the graveyard – for roughly 1,000 graves. Gravediggers are currently working on the fifth plot of land for COVID-19 victims since they began burying bodies in line with coronavirus health protocols in early March.

“We could run out of graves in the last plot within a month,” Imang Maulana told Arab News. “The current plot can accommodate up to 700 graves, but we buried almost 400 bodies in the past two weeks with the most recent spike on Saturday, Sept. 5, when we buried 37 bodies in a day. Before that, the highest number of bodies we buried was 36 on Aug. 31. I thought that was the record number of burials we had, but the record was broken on Saturday.”

The Pondok Ranggon cemetery is one of the city’s two public cemeteries with assigned plots to bury those who have died from or are suspected to have contracted the virus. The other one is Tegal Alur cemetery in West Jakarta.

Data from Jakarta’s COVID-19 website showed that from Aug. 23 to Sept. 4 there were 598 coronavirus burials in the city, with 60 on Sept. 2, the highest since the 54 reported on April 8.

Maulana and his team of 22 gravediggers are some of the firsthand witnesses to the city’s outbreak.

Jakarta remains the center of Indonesia’s outbreak, with more than 10,000 active cases to date, out of a total of 46,333 confirmed cases with 1,176 new infections reported on Sunday and a total of 1,277 deaths.

Maulana recalled the early days of the pandemic when the gravediggers had to carry out burials with the new protocols in March, wearing no protective gear except a face mask. “We were afraid as we did not know anything about the health protocol but, in the following week we finally understood the new procedures, and we were equipped with personal protective gear.”

He said there were few bodies to bury after the announcement of the first two confirmed coronavirus cases on March 2, but that burials increased sharply in the following weeks. The workload decreased and has remained consistent since May.

At that time, Jakarta was in the first month of imposing large-scale social restrictions that began on April 10.

He said there were days when they carried out fewer than 10 coronavirus burials until it spiked again recently after Jakarta, as well as other coronavirus-hit regions in Indonesia, loosened social restrictions to revive the battered economy.  

Maulana said the teams were working almost around the clock nowadays to bury the bodies, with each group taking turns to handle regular and COVID-19 burials.

“There were days when we had to bury a body first thing in the morning at 6.30 a.m. or when we thought the day was over and I was already home and cleaned up being with my family, but then duty called at almost midnight to bury a body with the COVID-19 protocol,” he added.

Indonesia reported 3,444 new cases on Sunday, adding to the national caseload of 194,109 with 8,025 deaths in a population of 267 million people.

Marginalization blights lives of French people of Arab origin: Survey

Updated 20 min 8 sec ago

Marginalization blights lives of French people of Arab origin: Survey

  • An Arab News en Francais/YouGov poll suggests the largest minority group in France suffer from lack of acceptance, even stigmatization
  • More than half the respondents said they adhere to secularism and believe it could help alleviate problems in the Arab world 

DUBAI: As a wave of violence inspired by radical Islam shakes French cities and the culture at large, creating a sense of insecurity and fear, Islamophobia is on the rise. Islamism is not Islam, but for lack of knowledge, conflation of the two is easy.

It is through this wrong prism that French Muslims are viewed, as well as some Jews and Christians due to their Arab origins. INSEE, France’s national statistics bureau, said that by 2019, 55 percent of immigrants (both first and second generation) had come from Arab countries. They are the largest minority group in France and therefore it is not for an extremist minority to represent them.

For the first time in France, a survey was carried out among French people of Arab origin. Arab News en Francais commissioned leading online polling firm YouGov to conduct research on the perception of their life in France and their position in the face of secularism.

Arab News Research and Studies Unit partnered with YouGov for the survey which was carried out between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, and was based on a representative sample of 958 French people from Arab countries, living in France.

The survey confirms their desire to belong to a democratic and secular France. It emerges that all religions are not perceived in the same way by French society, as indicated by the feelings of the French of Arab origin, Muslims and Jews who were interviewed.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of those interviewed were found to be educated and employed, while French people of Arab origin are generally familiar with the French system and its history, and adhere to the fundamental values ​​of the French Republic.

The French of Arab origin have largely adapted to the way of life in France, but they do not feel accepted, with many citing a sense of stigmatization. Both religion and their national origin have no impact on their sense of belonging to French society. But the sounding of their name has an impact on their careers.

Half of the people questioned believe that neither their race, nor their origin and their religion had any impact on their feelings of belonging to French society and on their professional careers. Their responses, however, underline a feeling of exclusion which, for 51 percent is not linked to skin color, but rather to the ethnic origin of their name (36 percent), which, on the other hand, has a negative impact on their career prospects.

This feeling of exclusion is exacerbated among women who believe that their country of origin (46 percent against 33 percent of men) as well as their religion (66 percent against 52 percent of men) causes a negative perception among their compatriots.

French people of Arab origin clearly respect French values, such as secularism, and believe that a secular system would be beneficial for their country of origin. Many even claim to be ready to defend this model in their country of origin.


55% French immigrants with roots in Arab countries.

51% Who did not link feeling of exclusion to skin color.

36% Who linked feeling of exclusion to ethnic origin of their name.

In fact, 54 percent of them advocate secularism, which would be, for them, a solution to the problems of the Arab world. The people questioned are reluctant to interfere with religion in politics and appreciate the secular system applied in France, which they even openly defend in their country of origin.

Moreover, the majority is not in favor of regulations on religious clothing, but 45 percent of men, 48 percent of respondents residing in rural France and 50 percent of those aged over 55 support regulatory laws and are in favor of such decisions, against 29 percent of the youngest (18-24 years) interviewees.

The oldest are better integrated than the youngest who were born in France. The younger generations are much less enthusiastic about state institutions and seem to be going back to their parents’ roots, thus reinforcing their sense of otherness.

The survey highlights the widening gap between the generations, insofar as young French people of Arab origin aged 18-24, for whom their religion is perceived positively (53 percent), seem less inclined to respect the regulations and join institutions like the national football team. Thus, 58 percent would support the football team of their country of origin against France, while 58 percent of men aged 35 to 44 and 72 percent of those over 55 would support the French team.

This last point reflects a generational gap and a generational conflict, which represents a major challenge for the future. A significant 49 percent of respondents and 52 percent of 18-34-year-olds believe that education levels are the most important factor in advancing their careers, but that their last name alone has a negative impact on their career, despite their ability to progress and the fact that they give themselves the means to do so.

A better knowledge of French people of Arab origin, peaceful and attached to the values ​​of freedom and secularism, is essential if the fight against extremism and Islamization in France is to be won.