This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
In at least two Indonesian provinces, criminals are now taking advantage of the worldwide coronavirus panic to enter and steal from people’s homes. In a press conference, Aceh Police spokesperson Ery Apriyono warned the public about groups that pose as government medical staff supposedly tasked with disinfecting people's homes. Apriyono said that police have received several reports of this kind but none of the thieves have been caught.
Here’s how it goes down: The thieves knock on a door dressed in full medical gear and tell whoever is home that they need to spray the house with disinfectant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They ask the occupant to leave during this process, which is when they grab all that they can carry.
“The same modus operandi has been reported outside Aceh as well. They disguise themselves as medical staff and claim the government ordered them to disinfect people’s homes from COVID-19,” Apriyono told local media.
Apriyono also told citizens to report any suspicious persons loitering in neighbourhoods or claim to have been sent by to disinfect their homes.
The exact same thing happened over 3,000 km away in South Kalimantan Province, head of local police Ipda Yuliantho said.
“Instead of calming the widespread panic, they are creating more. We urge all citizens to be alert. Don’t become panicked by what you see about the virus in the media and allow unidentified individuals to enter your homes,” Yuliantho told local media.
Like Aceh police, Yuliantho asked residents to report any suspicious people going door-to-door.
He also assured that civilians would be able to verify if any government medical staff were sent by the local health department to their homes. That being said, the government is currently not conducting in-home disinfection like the thieves claim.