Jakarta. The Jakarta Municipal Police caused a public backlash for ordering people caught not wearing masks in public to lay in a coffin in punishment as the city is entering its worst period yet of the coronavirus pandemic.
The controversial punitive measure, not found in the city government regulations, was lifted on Friday amid mounting criticisms.
On several occasions on Wednesday and Thursday, a number of people were ordered to lay in a coffin in Pasar Rebo, East Jakarta, for not wearing masks.
They were told to “contemplate” the potential health risk from their mistake while laying down in the coffin for around five minutes.
Santoso, the deputy head of Pasar Rebo subdistrict, claimed that the offenders had voluntarily opted to lay in the coffin rather than pay the fine or spend one hour on a social work.
“If they chose social work, they had to clean public facilities for at least one hour. When I asked why they didn’t pay the fine, they replied they didn’t have the money,” Santoso told Kompas news website.
Separately speaking, East Jakarta Municipal Police head Budhy Novian said he had never encouraged nor condoned such a punishment.
“We need to stop public controversy. From now on, we will only deliver sanctions according to existing regulations,” Budhy told Antara news agency after the public backlash.
Budhy claimed he learned about the incident from videos circulating on social media.
Like many other provinces, Jakarta has made face covering mandatory during the outbreak.
According to the gubernatorial regulation on Covid-19 mitigation, violation to health protocols during the pandemic is punishable by a fine of Rp 250,000 or social works.
Coffin has become a warning symbol against coronavirus in the capital. Earlier this week, Governor Anies Baswedan inaugurated a coffin statue with warning messages below it in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.
The coffin statue has been erected at ten locations across Jakarta.
Coronavirus has been spreading at the fastest speed in Jakarta since late last month, when the city began reporting more than 1,000 new cases in a single day.
Jakarta is currently the hardest hit by the virus with more than 44,000 cases, accounting for 23 percent of the national count.