A teacher wearing a face shield leads a class in a makeshift classroom in Tangerang, Indonesia, on Monday. TATAN SYUFLANA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Each day in Jakarta at 9 am 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, 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 Southeast Asia.
The public order enforcers asked them to obey the health protocols in order to avoid the risk of infection and transmission of coronavirus.
According to a gubernatorial regulation, failure to wear a mask in public in Jakarta is punishable by fines up to $16.90 or 60 minutes of community service.
“It’s a tiring job because people don’t understand the danger of the COVID-19 disease,” said 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 loudhailers to urge residents to follow health protocols, including wearing masks and social distancing.
A girl wearing a protective face mask and synthetic gloves sits on luggages as she queues for temperature checking amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 20, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]
The alarming stunt is one of a string deployed amid desperate case numbers: Indonesia on Thursday 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 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 74-year-old Masno.
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 Encu Suhani, deputy chief of Cilandak’s local government.
This is not the first time that the Jakarta administration displayed a coffin as a warning against COVID-19.
Governor Anies Baswedan on Tuesday inaugurated the COVID-19 Monument in Sunter Jaya, North Jakarta.
The monument was built in a form of coffin equipped with information board containing warning sentences, appeals, and data on the accumulation of COVID-19 cases in the city.