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NOT ALL Malaysians are afraid of catching covid-19, judging by the sometimes half-hearted adherence to the national lockdown. But Muhammad Urabil Alias of Kemaman, a town in the state of Terengganu, thinks everyone is scared of a pontianak (the bloodthirsty ghost of a woman who has died in childbirth). Every night he dresses as one and haunts the streets, to deter his neighbours from breaking the curfew. Villagers in Indonesia have hit on a similar tactic, patrolling the streets while dressed as pocong (another type of ghost, trapped in its burial shroud). Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, has come up with another variation on the idea of enforcing lockdowns through fear: he has told the police to shoot anyone caught breaking quarantine.
Most Asian governments are more humane. Vietnam’s pioneered the idea of helping people absorb the flood of public-health advisories by making them fun. During the epidemic’s first flush, in February, it commissioned a catchy pop song about hand-washing and social distancing. It later asked a choreographer to come up with a dance to accompany the by-then viral tune….