On 21 April 2020, there were 37 bodies buried in the COVID-19 section of Simalingkar B Muslim Cemetery on the outskirts of Medan, North Sumatra. Now there are over 320—all of whom were laid to rest in line with Indonesia’s strict coronavirus protocols.  

Yet, by August, the number of bodies interred here is not the only thing that has changed.

In the early days of the pandemic, Simalingkar B Muslim Cemetery became known for its burial procedures, which involved families standing on a bluff overlooking the COVID-19 mass grave site as their loved ones’ bodies were tipped into the ground from the back of an ambulance. Death was a lonely and undignified affair, with the final separation of the deceased and their family taken to an extreme. 

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Aisyah Llewellyn

Aisyah Llewellyn is a British freelance writer based in Medan, Indonesia. She is a former diplomat and writes primarily about Indonesian politics, culture, travel and food.