'Ghosts' scare Indonesians inside and far from the coronavirus

KEPUH: The Indonesian village of Kepuh has recently been chased by mysterious white figures who leap at unsuspecting passersby and then glide under a full moon sky.

The village on the island of Java has deployed a cast of ghosts to patrol the streets, hoping that the ancient superstition will keep people in and out of safety.

We wanted to be different and create a deterrent because 'they are creepy 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.

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Known as pocong, ghostly figures are typically wrapped in white shrouds with powdery faces and kohl-rimmed eyes. In Indonesian folklore they represent the trapped souls of the dead.

But when they started showing up this month, they had the opposite effect. Instead of keeping people inside, they bought them to take a look at the appearances.

Since then, organizers have changed tactics, launching surprise pocong patrols, with village volunteers playing the role of ghosts.

The president has resisted a national shutdown to curb the coronavirus, rather than urging people to practice social distancing and good hygiene.

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

Residents still lack awareness on how to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease, village chief Priyadi said, they want to live as usual, making it very difficult for them to follow instructions to stay home.

There are now 4,241 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Indonesia, and 373 deaths, for fear that the numbers will increase significantly.

Researchers from the University of Indonesia estimate that there could be 140,000 deaths and 1.5 million cases by May without harder brakes on the move.

When Reuters recently visited the village of Kepuh, the supernatural strategy seemed to be working, and villagers fled in fear as the ghosts materialized.

Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes, resident Supadmo said, and people will not gather or stay on the streets after the evening prayers.