Back in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, it took some time for people to get used to social distancing.
Some people found no trouble in abiding by the rules, while others needed a little bit more convincing about the very real threat of the coronavirus.
So much so, authorities in Sragen Regency, Indonesia locked social distancing violators in supposedly-haunted houses.
But over in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, local authorities have taken a different, but equally scary and morbid approach.
Wearing hazmat suits, officials parade empty coffins around small neighborhoods as a symbolic reminder of what potentially awaits those who violate social distancing measures and other safety-procedures meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
And perhaps a few are having a lot more fun with it than others, since there have been reports of some officials dressing up as pocongs, popular ghosts in Indonesian folklore.
According to South Jakarta’s Cilandak District Head Mundari (yes, a lot of Indonesians only have one, singular name), the coffin parades are supposed to raise awareness of the risks of the coronavirus.
“We’re hoping this coffin parade will remind people to be more aware of the risk of disobeying health safety rules,” said Mundari.
“They can picture how things would be if they died of COVID-19,” added Mundari.
And it seems the creative move is working. According to Cilandak resident Ahmad Soleh Suzany, the message is pretty clear.
“It’s very scary because this shows the huge dangers we’re facing,” Suzany told AFP.
Indonesia’s coronavirus toll continues to climb, with authorities reporting over 177,000 confirmed cases and 7,505 deaths.
Don’t be fooled though. Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world, yet it has one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates globally, despite the severity of the pandemic. So take the official numbers with a grain of salt.
Making things perpetually worse for the country is the fact that intensive care units across the country are being milked dry of resources due to the influx of confirmed coronavirus cases. The healthcare system is struggling, and remember, that’s with official case numbers.
And like other nations across the globe, the Indonesian economy tanked due to lockdown measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus. This forced the Indonesian government to ease restrictions and slowly reopen the country’s economy.
Merely fining people for not wearing masks or abiding by social distancing rules is not enough. That’s why coffin parades are needed.
“So besides sanctions we’re trying to raise awareness. This helps to convey the message. It’s our way of trying to maximize the spread of information,” says Mundari.
And the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) is completely on board with the whole idea too, praising local Jakarta authorities for their creativity.
“We appreciate efforts to educate and spread information in different ways so the public’s crisis awareness stays high,” said IDI spokesperson Halik Malik.
“This kind of thing leaves an impression.”
If authorities paraded coffins through your neighborhood, would you take COVID-19 more seriously too?
Cover image sourced from New Straits Times / AFP.