In Indonesia, shock coffin tactics used to drive home coronavirus risks

Workers carry a mock-up coffin of a Covid-19 victim to warn people about the disease in Jakarta, on Aug 28, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Each day in Jakarta at 9am sharp, local government official Ricky Mulyana and three colleagues don full personal protective equipment, hoist a wooden coffin onto their shoulders, and set out on a "funeral" procession down busy city streets.

The coffin, wrapped in plastic, contains only an effigy. But as Indonesia struggles to contain a surge in coronavirus cases, the authorities are trying shock tactics to catch the public's attention and drive home crucial health messages in a country that has the highest virus death toll in South-east Asia.

"It's a tiring job because people don't understand the danger of the Covid-19 disease," said Mr Mulyana during a coffin procession along a street in Jakarta's southern Cilandak area, a sprawling suburb with business centres and both middle class and poorer districts.

Nearby, other officials held up placards and used loud-hailers to urge residents to follow health protocols, including wearing masks and social distancing.

The alarming stunt is one of a string deployed amid desperate case numbers: Indonesia on Thursday (Sept 3) recorded a record daily spike in coronavirus infections and now has more than 180,000 cases and at least 7,750 deaths.

Jakarta has been the epicentre of Indonesia's outbreak, accounting for nearly a quarter of cases in the world's fourth-most populous country.

Elsewhere, tactics used to draw awareness to the virus have even included deploying a cast of "ghosts" to patrol streets of a village in Java, hoping an age-old superstition will keep people indoors.

"Until now people are still not aware that using a mask is very important," said Mr Mulyana.

He said he hoped seeing a coffin would make people realise the danger of the disease.

Some residents watching on said the coffin parade could help get the message across.

"Now, people can understand (the consequence). Without this (initiative) people will always break the rules," said Mr Masno, 74, who uses one name.

The daily procession started last week and is expected to run for two weeks until Sept 10.

"We hope it will frighten the public and increase their awareness, and that residents in Jakarta will be receptive,"said Mr Encu Suhani, the deputy chief of Cilandak's local government.

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