COVID-19 Burial Rise Causes Indonesian Gravediggers Under Pressure

Gravedigger Junaedi Bin Hakim toils in a Jakarta cemetery until almost midnight almost every day, arranging plots for fellow Indonesians in the midst of a renewed increase in coronavirus burials.

They honestly shared that they are worried and terrified but this is part of their job and obligations said 43-year-old Junaedi, who regularly left work at 4 pm before the global pandemic to spend time with his young family. Jakarta was the epicenter of an epidemic in Indonesia, where the authorities have been struggling to contain the virus for months. Nearly 245,000 cases have been registered by the country including 9,553 deaths, the highest levels in South East Asia.

Unlike many other Asian capitals, the authorities in Jakarta did not enforce a strict lockout, opting for more calibrated social controls, which was too loose an approach some health experts have claimed. After an initial surge at the beginning of the pandemic, in July and August, burials in Jakarta fell on average to about 20 to 30 per day.

But in September, they shot up to between 50 and over 60 a day, city government data shows. As ambulances carrying patients snaked around Pandok Ranggoon cemetery entrance, Mr. Junaedi said it could be complete at the new cemetery within two months.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said in case that occurs, more land has been reserved. The number of deaths in Indonesia during the last week averaged 114 per day, up from 64 a month ago.

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