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Indonesian Neighborhood Uses 'Ghosts' to Scare People Back Home

Volunteers play the role of 'pocong', or known as 'shroud ghost,' to make people stay at home amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the gate of Kepuh village in Sukoharjo regency, Central Java province, Indonesia, April 1, 2020.

A neighborhood in Indonesia's central Java province has deployed a group of volunteer “ghosts” to patrol the streets and scare people into staying home in compliance with the region’s stay-at-home rules designed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Leaders in the Kepuh village neighborhood in Sukoharjo say residents lacked awareness of the coronavirus threat and had been ignoring rules requiring them to stay in their homes.

A group of volunteers — working in coordination with local law enforcement —pocong developed the idea of dressing up “pocong,” or “shroud ghosts,” from Indonesia and Malaysian folklore.

They wrap themselves in white cloth resembling corpses wrapped in burial shrouds and roam the neighborhood of about 5,000 people, ‘scaring” people into going home — or at least providing a reminder of the stay-at-home rules.

When the patrols first began in early April, organizers told Reuters news agency that the effort initially backfired, when reports of their efforts on social media brought more people out to see the ghosts. The volunteers changed their schedules and began carrying out surprise patrols. Their efforts have proven effective.

While some villages and residential areas like Kepuh imposed lockdowns, Indonesian President Joko Widodo resisted a nationwide lockdown.

Reuters reported that as of Sunday, Indonesia reported 4,241 cases of COVID-19, with 373 dead. The country has the highest official death toll in East Asia after China.