Some in China have been using drones to publicly scold people walking around outside without wearing a face mask amid the country’s growing coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, the English-language version of the Global Times — a publication controlled by China’s ruling Communist Party — passed along some footage of the drone warnings after they were shared on China’s popular Weibo social network. In the viral video, residents of a village in Inner Mongolia are startled when they hear a disembodied voice from a hovering drone admonishing them for not wearing face masks outside.
“Yes, Auntie, this is the drone speaking to you — you shouldn’t walk about without wearing a mask,” the voice announces to an elderly woman.
In another segment, the drone warns a small boy, “The coronavirus is very serious — Run!” (He then does — away from the drone.)
Noted the Global Times report, “The innovative usage of drones has cheered up Chinese netizens who have not been able to indulge in outdoor entertainment events this [Lunar New Year Holiday] because of the coronavirus.” Other viral videos shared online have shown quarantined residents playing table tennis inside cramped apartments or fishing in their home aquariums.
Outside China, coverage of the footage indicated that the drones were all being operated by local officials, but that appears to be only partially the case. The Beijing News reports that two of the video segments were made by a local social media influencer (with 200,000 followers) who told them he hoped that he could help boost prevention practices during the coronavirus epidemic. In another segment, a traffic policewoman in the city of Shuyang in northern China uses a traffic drone to call out maskless pedestrians.
“Hey handsome guy, speaking on your mobile — where is your mask? Wear your mask!” she says to a man in a crosswalk.
It should also be noted that traffic police only handle traffic and are independent of other police forces in China:
The 2019nCoV coronavirus has already infected nearly 10,000 people and killed more than 200, mostly in mainland China. On Thursday, the World Health Organization designated the outbreak a Global Health Emergency.
Meanwhile, recent drone footage from the epicenter of the outbreak, the large quarantined city of Wuhan in central China, is unsettling for a different reason: