Indonesia Is Deploying Social Distancing Ghosts To Scare Residents Indoors

Kepuh village, on Java Island has come up with an interesting way of enforcing social distancing in the fight against coronavirus. With most of the world currently under lockdown, governments are exploring the best ways of managing their populations to prevent the spread of the virus. There is no doubt that we are all feeling the effects of social distancing as we adapt to a new reality. Communicating through social media and technology, as well as support in the form of telephone therapy can make lockdown easier to handle. But for those not taking on board the advice to stay home, we have to show our appreciation for Kepuh village’s unique way of dealing with them!

Eerie, ghostly figures known as “pocong” are a part of Indonesian culture. These creatures are said to be souls trapped in shrouds, white fabric covering the face and body. Folklore explains that the ghosts must be freed from mortal life, and will emerge from graves to remind families to carry out their final wishes.

Anjar Pancaningtyas, who runs a local mosque, set up the ghostly patrols with a youth group and in partnership with the local police force. “We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because pocong are spooky and scary,” he explained.

Indonesia has suffered a large outbreak of the virus, and public health officials have been slow to provide the public with advice. “Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo said. “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”

Indonesia so far has about 4,500 cases and 400 deaths, although some experts have expressed concern that this figure could be far higher. However it does not have an official stay at home order in place, and many residents continued to move around in the streets. The ghost patrols were a grassroots effort to convince the public that they should protect themselves by staying home. The deathly costumes were a reminder of the deadly toll the virus can have on vulnerable people. “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.”

The ghosts are all volunteers. They change their routes frequently so that people cannot prepare themselves, hide, or wander the streets in search of them to take pictures. It’s certainly a unique idea, and one that would convince most of us to stay behind the door. This isn’t the only unique international campaign to keep people indoors. Indian police have been spotted patrolling with modified helmets representing the virus as a monster.

You can check out the ghosts in action keeping neighbourhoods safe in the video below. How would you react if you encountered a pocong?