On Java island the village has deployed a cast of ‘Ghosts’ to go out into the streets in the hope that old superstitions can shield people from the coronavirus indoors and in safety.
“We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because ‘pocong’ are spooky and scary,” said Anjar Pancaningtyas, head of a village youth group that coordinated with the police on the unconventional initiative to promote social distancing as the coronavirus spreads.
Known as “pocong”, the ghostly figures are typically wrapped in white shrouds with powdered faces and kohl-rimmed eyes. In Indonesian folklore they represent the trapped souls of the dead.
But when they first started appearing this month they had the opposite effect. Instead of keeping people in they bought them out to catch a glimpse of the apparitions.
The organisers have since changed tack, launching surprise pocong patrols, with village volunteers playing the part of the ghosts.
“Residents still lack awareness about how to curb the spread of COVID-19 disease,” said village head Priyadi, “They want to live like normal so it is very difficult for them to follow the instruction to stay at home.”
There are now 4,241 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Indonesia, and 373 deaths, with fears the numbers will rise significantly.
Researchers at the University of Indonesia estimate there could be 140,000 deaths and 1.5 million cases by May without tougher curbs on movement.