Countries are getting creative when it comes to forcing their citizens to social distance so that the global coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Authorities in the Kepuh village in Indonesia on the country's Java island have deployed a cast of "ghosts" to patrol their streets. Officials are hoping that the mysterious white figures that are scaring unsuspecting citizens will keep people inside and stop the spread of the coronavirus. Anjar Pancaningtyas, head of a village youth group that partnered with the police on the initiative to promote social distancing, these figures are a take on ancient superstitious creatures called "pocong."
"We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because ‘pocong’ are spooky and scary," Pancaningtyas said to Reuters.
In Indonesia folklore, pocong are ghostly figures that represent the trapped souls of the dead. Yet when they first appeared a month ago, the pocong didn't deter people from leaving their homes. In fact, they sparked curiosity resulting in citizens leaving their homes to catch a glimpse of the ghosts. This has forced organizers to change tactics. They are now using surprise pocong patrols with village volunteers playing the ghosts.
Indonesia reportedly has the highest rate of coronavirus deaths in Asia after China. Yet, President Joko Widodo has decided against a national lockdown. This has forced villages like Kepuh to resort to desperate measures in hopes to flatten the curve.
"Residents still lack awareness about how to curb the spread of COVID-19 disease," village head Priyadi said. "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 coronavirus in Indonesia, leading to 373 deaths. Although there are fears of the total rising, residents say that the pocong are working.
"Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes," resident, Karno Supadmo, explained. "And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers."