Coronavirus: China deploys drones with cameras, loudhailers to chastise people for unsafe behavior

The drones are equipped with cameras and loudhailers.

February 4, 2020, 9:46 AM

Chinese authorities are employing drones in their fight to contain the new coronavirus outbreak, including using loudspeakers to warn unsuspecting members of the public who are taking insufficient precautions or breaking rules put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, China state television claims.

Videos released by Chinese state media outlets show a drone’s-eye-view of confrontations between citizens and the unmanned aircraft, which are equipped with loudspeakers allowing officials to communicate with the public.

One video published by Chinese state media shows an aircraft flying close to an elderly woman and addressing her, as she stares up at it, bemused.

“Yes Auntie, this drone is speaking to you,” the drone says, according to a translation by China’s state-owned Global Times. “You shouldn’t walk about without wearing a mask. You’d better go home, and don’t forget to wash your hands,” it instructs the woman, who promptly proceeds indoors, observed by the drone.

Another clip, shared by the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, shows a drone confronting an elderly couple on the street. “Uncle, Auntie, due to the coronavirus outbreak, please have better self protection. Please return home immediately,” before urging them to wear protective face masks.

Another clip, spotted on the Twitter-like Chinese social media platform Weibo by the Reuters news agency, showed a drone being used to disperse a group of people playing mahjong outdoors.

“Playing mahjong outside is banned during the epidemic. You have been spotted. Stop playing and leave the site as soon as possible,” an official orders the villagers through the drone’s loudspeaker.

“Don’t look at the drone, child; ask your father to leave immediately,” the drone’s pilot tells a boy seen looking at it in a confused manner.

The latest Chinese government figures, released Tuesday, report that there are 20,438 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in mainland China and there have been 420 deaths resulting from the virus since the outbreak began in Dec. 2019.

At least 190 cases have been reported in over two dozen other nations and territories, including 11 cases in the United States.

China imposed a lockdown in Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, on Jan. 23, and has imposed travel restrictions to its semi-autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The U.S. declared a public health emergency over the outbreak on Jan. 31.

The U.S. also imposed restrictions on travelers from China. and U.S. citizens returning from Hubei province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to a 14-day quarantine. Foreign nationals, other than immediate family members of U.S. citizens who have traveled to China in the previous 14 days, will be denied entry into the country.

Morgan Winsor contributed reporting to this article.

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