'It's real': Gravediggers in Surabaya reportedly bury some 1,500 bodies during coronavirus pandemic

The number of burials at the cemeteries in Surabaya are higher than the confirmed deaths. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Gravediggers working at two public cemeteries designated for Covid-19 victims in Surabaya, East Java, have reportedly buried some 1,500 bodies since the pandemic started.

Mr Munaji, a gravedigger at the Keputih Public Cemetery, said he had helped at approximately 800 burials at the cemetery.

Combined with those at the Babat Jerawat Cemetery, he said, the number of burials in Surabaya had reached around 1,500.

"It's real. The number of Covid-19 burials, from the beginning of the pandemic until now, is around 1,500," Mr Munaji said on Monday (Aug 26), as quoted by KompasTV.

Mr Munaji said in the beginning of the outbreak, he helped bury some 35 bodies per day and worked around the clock. Although his worry about contracting the virus persisted, he said it was his call to continue to work in good faith.

Mr Munaji urged people to comply with health protocols to stop the transmission and reduce the number of victims.

"When will this end? We are tired, we are depressed," he said.

East Java has been among the worst-hit provinces in Indonesia, with most of its cases being reported in Surabaya.

As of Tuesday, East Java had confirmed 30,998 cases, with 24,301 recoveries and 2,222 deaths. Surabaya has contributed 11,628 cases, with 8,968 recoveries and 900 deaths.

The number of burials at the cemeteries in Surabaya are higher than the confirmed deaths, as the government excludes the deaths of suspected cases from the official data but requires them to be buried under Covid-19 protocols.

This also means more work and more personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for gravediggers across the country.

Separately, a gravedigger in Gandus Hill Cemetery in Palembang, South Sumatra, Mr Herman, also shared his struggles.

For fear of transmitting the virus to his wife and children, the 55-year-old only goes home once in a while to change clothes, as do his four colleagues.

Mr Herman admitted that he wore ordinary clothes and worked with only a spade, with no special protective gear.

Mr Herman said that he and his colleagues were paid a total of 750,000 rupiah (S$70.20) per burial, which was divided evenly among them.

"There is no tip, that's all. Sometimes we're given vitamins. But we remain sincere, because this is all we can do to help during this pandemic," Mr Herman said on Sunday.

"If no one wanted to do it, who would help with the burials? I only pray for God's protection while working. This is all for humanity," he added.

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