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A group of villagers in Toba regency, North Sumatra assaulted a COVID-19 patient in what appeared to be an egregious violation of the victim’s rights, only for local authorities to say that he may have brought it on himself.

A video taken last week went viral over the weekend, showing a group of residents ganging up on a 45-year-old man, identified by his initials SS, in Sianipar Bulu Silape village. Several men can be seen using long sticks and ropes to hit and toss SS around on a street. SS was then tied up and dragged away, reportedly to a quarantine facility.

(Warning: Graphic depiction of violence)

As the video went viral, the initial accompanying narrative was that the villagers refused to have SS isolate in the village after he tested positive for COVID-19, casting them in an inhumane light.

However, local officials soon refuted the narrative, saying that SS was assaulted after he repeatedly ran away from the village’s quarantine facility.

“It wasn’t violent [intent], they (the villagers) wanted to secure him. I see that the villagers actually care for [SS],” Toba Regent Poltak Sitorus told reporters.

SS’ wife confirmed the reports, saying SS left quarantine to go home on several occasions. But that was the least among his irresponsible actions.

“On Thursday, at around 5pm, my husband went outside, spat on his hands, and approached people and tried to touch them while shouting that he does not have COVID-19,” the wife said.

She added that villagers failed to apprehend SS that day, and he ran away to the woods. They caught him the next day and admitted him to a local hospital, only for him to escape in the evening.

SS was recaptured on Saturday and admitted to the same hospital, where he has been in isolation since.

Read the latest news on Coconuts Jakarta

This article, Indonesian man thrashed by villagers after trying to spread COVID-19, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.

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