Chinese authorities are taking coronavirus surveillance to new heights — using drones to scold citizens who go outside without face masks.
“Yes, auntie, this is the drone speaking to you. You shouldn’t walk about without wearing a mask,” says the caption of a video posted Friday on Twitter by the Global Times, the English-language newspaper published by the state-run People’s Daily.
The video shows an older woman in the northern province of Inner Mongolia, more than 1,000 miles from the center of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, smiling up at the drone. Then she turns and begins walking quickly away, as it follows her.
“Yes you’d better go back home and don’t forget to wash your hands,” the caption continues.
“You see we’ve been telling people to stay at home, but you still wander outside. Now a drone is watching you.”
At least 259 people have died and 11,791 are officially ill with the virus, which first appeared in Wuhan. It has spread to at last two dozen other countries, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency. Researchers from Hong Kong University estimate more than 75,000 people in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, could be infected.
Chinese military and government agencies have been known to use drones to surveil citizens since at least 2016, especially in an area of Western China where thousands of Uigher Muslims are imprisoned. Drones are also used to enforce traffic laws and for other police work.