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Covid-19: Italy now using heat-sensor drones to catch people infected by coronavirus during lockdown

According to en.brinkwire.com, Italian police are deploying drones with thermal sensors to detect people with coronavirus out in public places during the strict lockdown.

The small drone flies above virus hotspots such as Bergamo in the Lombardy region, measuring the temperature of those below. It then tells residents to go home and can even be used to issue fines if they are seen to have a raised temperature.

If a suspect is seen to be infected, police on the ground will then approach and take a reading by hand. The hovering drone shouts down instructions in a tinny voice: “Attention! You are in a prohibited area. Get out immediately.” A heat sensor takes the offender’s temperature and sends the information to a drone operator, who looks at a thermal map on his hand-held screen. “Violations of the regulations result in administrative and criminal penalties,’ says the drone.

Italy’s coronavirus epicentre in the northern province of Bergamo, in Lombardy, has had enough of people spreading Covid-19. Matteo Copia, police commander in Treviolo, near Bergamo, said: “Once someone’s temperature is read by the drone, you must then stop that person and measure their temperature with a normal thermometer. Drones are helpful for controlling an area.”

Italy was the first Western democracy to enter a national lockdown in the face of a disease. It is now one of several European nations using police drones to an extent that would have seemed unimaginable – and almost certainly unacceptable – just a month ago.

The official death toll in Lombardy, an industrial area of 10 million people, stood at 10,022 early on Friday – meaning one in 1,000 people have died of the disease in a matter of weeks.  The overall Italian death toll has now reached 22,170 (April 17th). But health officials fear this progress may be undone once people have had enough of life under lockdown and start coming out into the spring sunshine.

Copia says the local police force has received new powers that allow it to check people’s temperature without their knowledge or permission. “Everything is perfectly legal,” the police commander said. “At this moment of emergency, the Italian civil aviation authority has authorised us to control people by using critical and non-critical operations.” Adding, “These operations involve city overflights.”

The government in Rome has stated some of the lockdown measures will be relaxed on May 4th. But the most heavily hit regions might decide to extend their lockdowns and the Bergamo drones may keep flying well into the summer months.

Some Italians have had enough of the spying. “The use of drones might seem positive but in my opinion, it’s a privacy violation,” local student Carlotta Locatelli said. But pensioner Regina Masper said the drones delivered a valuable service. “I think it’s good that they are using drones. At least, we know who is infected and who is not.’

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