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A roving gang of "ghosts" are now on patrol in Kepuh at night after a youth group coordinated with police in hopes the figures of Indonesian folklore will force people to practice social distancing and good hygiene.
The ghostly figures, known as "pocong," are typically wrapped in white shrouds with powdered faces and kohl-rimmed eyes and represent the trapped souls of the dead, according to Reuters.
“We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because ‘pocong’ are spooky and scary,” Anjar Pancaningtyas, the head of a village youth group, told Reuters.
Organizers said that after earlier appearances by the ghosts attracted crowds, they changed their strategy to instead ambush people with surprise "pocong" patrols.
Volunteers Deri Setyawan, 25, and Septian Febriyanto, 26, sit on a bench as they play the role of 'pocong', or known as 'shroud ghost', to make people stay at home amid the spread of coronavirus in one village in Indonesia. (REUTERS/Stringer)
“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo told Reuters, “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”
The ghoulish patrols have come to small villages like Kepuh after Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo resisted a national lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Some regions with a high number of infections have enforced stricter social restrictions. They are following the capital of Jakarta, which has become the epicenter of the outbreak, recording 2,335 cases with 241 deaths.
As of Tuesday, there are 4,839 cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia with at least 459 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s virus death toll is the highest in Asia after China.
On Tuesday, Widodo declared the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s fourth most populous country a “non-natural national disaster.”
The Presidential Decree opens the door for international cooperation and humanitarian assistance.
Efforts to mitigate the outbreak will be led by the COVID-19 National Task Force with the cooperation of regional administrations, ministries and national agencies, according to the decree. Governors, mayors and district chiefs will lead COVID-19 task forces in their respective regions and have broader authority.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.