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WASHINGTON — If you’re in China and walking around without a face mask, prepare to be scolded — by a sassy, discourteous drone.

The English-language edition of the Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the ruling Communist Party, released footage on Twitter on Friday of relentless drones calling out instructions as they hover above people disobeying health protocols amid the outbreak.

“Yes, auntie, this is the drone speaking to you,” a voice booms over an elderly Chinese woman, according to the Global Times’s English translation. “You shouldn’t walk about without wearing a mask.”

“Yes you’d better go back home and don’t forget to wash your hands,” it calls out to her again as she starts to walk away.

But the drone isn’t done.

“You see we’ve been telling people to stay at home but you still wander outside,” it adds, following the woman as she hurries down a dirt road, occasionally glancing back up at the device in the sky. “Now a drone is watching you.”

The drone moves on to its next target: a man without a face mask, working on a cart in the snow. The voice calls out to him, asking why he’s working outside. “Why do you always come outside?” it asks. “You can sort this out in a few days.” He grins up at the device, but the drone is not joking around. “Don’t laugh,” the voice says. “Now get on your cart and go home immediately.”

In some city centers, the drone is also calling out to people to stay inside, repeating that China is in “unusual times.”

“The coronavirus is very serious,” the drone tells a young boy walking alone. “Run!” He sprints down the street as the drone speaks up again. “Don’t come outside,” it adds. “Staying at home is contributing to society.”


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