While the Indonesian Government has yet to impose a national lockdown amid the spiking cases of COVID-19 in the country, a village on Java island, Kepuh Village, deployed a cast of “ghosts” or “pocong” to patrol the streets and keep people into staying indoors.
The “pocong” is a ghost wrapped in white shrouds, which is known in Indonesian folklore for haunting graveyards.
“We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because “pocong” are spooky and scary,” the keeper of Kesongo’s Al Himmah mosque, Anjar Panca, told Reuters on 13 April.
According to Mr Anjar, the deployment of “pocong” was not to scare residents but to remind them of the deadly effect of the COVID-19 virus, The Jakarta Post reported on 2 April.
“The pocong is not to scare residents; instead, we want to educate residents on the fact that coronavirus causes death. It is a shock therapy, as people usually pay more attention to anything related to death,” Mr Anjar noted.
The head of Kesongo hamlet’s neighborhood unit, Karno Supadmo, claimed that the deployment of the “pocong” was initiated by residents of the village to prevent the spread of the virus in the area.
The cast of ghosts was tasked to stand at the entrance gate from 8pm to midnight every day and conduct an identification check on every guest entering the hamlet, as well as to question the purpose of the guest’s visit.
“During the past three days, no residents were seen going out at night. Apparently, they’re scared of the fake ghost,” Mr Anjar claimed.
The unconventional method, however, backfired when it first appeared in the village. Reuters highlighted that instead of keeping people indoors, the “pocong” attracted people to go out and spot the ghosts.
Following that, the authorities changed the method and started deploying “surprise pocong patrols” instead. According to the Reuters’ report, the strategy seems to work as villagers were seen bolting in fright when the ghosts appeared.
“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” Mr Karno claimed. “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”
Indonesia has recorded a total of 4,557 infected cases of COVID-19 and 399 deaths to date (14 April). Despite the spike in COVID-19 cases, Indonesia President Joko Widodo stressed on 25 March that the country will not impose a lockdown.
“I have gathered data about countries that have imposed lockdowns and after analyzing them, I don’t think we should go that way,” Mr Joko said during a limited meeting at the Presidential Palace on 24 March.
He explained that Indonesians’ cultural characteristics and discipline were the two main reasons why the Government has shelved a lockdown. Instead of imposing a lockdown, he urged Indonesians to stay at home and maintain social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.