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‘Ghosts’ Scare Indonesians Into Staying Home During Lockdown

‘Ghosts’ in Indonesia scare residence into staying home | Photo: Reuters

Different countries have put in place different measures to ensure their citizens adhere to the coronavirus lockdown. But, Kepuh village in Indonesia has taken it to a whole new level.

The village on Java island has deployed a cast of “ghosts” to patrol the streets, hoping that age-old superstition will keep people indoors and safely away from the coronavirus.

“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 which makes the villagers run off in fright at the sight of the ‘ghosts’.

Rather than call for a national lockdown amid the pandemic, President Joko Widodo is instead urging people to practise social distancing and good hygiene.

But with the highest rate of coronavirus deaths in Asia after China, some communities, such as Kepuh village, have decided to take measures into their own hands, imposing the ghostly patrols, lockdowns and restricting movement in and out of their village.

“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.

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