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Eight people in Indonesia who refused to wear masks in public were ordered by a local official to dig graves for COVID-19 victims.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Indonesia, officials in Cerme, a district in East Java, have introduced stricter enforcement of social distancing and masking guidelines.

For the eight people who violated the local mask mandate, it meant digging graves. The district chief, identified as Suyono by Indonesian news site Tribun News, suggested punishment due to the lack of grave diggers in the area.

“There are only three gravedigger available at the moment, so I thought I might as well get these people to work with them,” he told Tribune News. “Hopefully this can have a deterrent effect against violations,” he said.

Two people are assigned to each grave – one to dig the grave and one to insert wooden planks into the holes to support the bodies. Cremation and embalming are not permitted in Indonesia, and bodies are traditionally buried without a coffin.

The non-mask wearers were not allowed to attend traditional ceremonies, the Jakarta Post reported. SBS News in Australia also banned them from touching the bodies. Instead, local officials wearing protective gear were supposed to bury the bodies.

Indonesia has the highest current number of coronavirus deaths in Southeast Asia, with nearly 8,900 deaths per Tuesday per Johns Hopkins University. The country has required people to wear masks since April.

Contributor: The Associated Press.

Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote.

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