In America and all over the world, people are all too happy to turn in neighbors and perfect strangers for violating what they believe are proper COVID-19 social distancing rules. Some people do it with glee.
And it’s more than a little frightening.
People in Southern California tut-tutted on the Nextdoor app that there were a few people on a wide swath of sand by an ocean, called a beach. You know, fresh air, water for as far as the eye can see? Someone immediately chimed in and demanded they call the health department on beachgoers. The beach was closed.
Spying security guards were keeping watch over the public parking lot where I had met a family member to transmit bouquets of flowers. I’m not sure what they would have done if I’d made physical contact.
Every conversation and tete-a-tete witnessed for many seems like an ethical dilemma. Are they too close? Do I turn them in?
As I reported, the city of Los Angeles has instituted a spy program to snitch on businesses breaking the rules.
In Malibu, two lifeguard boats and sheriffs deputies busted a guy paddleboarding near no one. Then he was sandwiched between two deputies and taken to a crowded place to be booked.
In Toronto, if people are caught breaking that city’s COVID-19 social distancing rules, it’s a $1000 fine.
“Toronto Police Service members & City of Toronto by-law officers continue to see non-compliance with government & public health orders. Tickets of $1,000 will be given to those who continue to make wrong decisions. Let’s get this right together for all us.”
Toronto Police Service members & City of Toronto by-law officers continue to see non-compliance with government & public health orders. Tickets of $1,000 will be given to those who continue to make wrong decisions. Let’s get this right together for all us. #COVID19 #StayHome ^sm pic.twitter.com/nOBdOp4F6l
— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) April 5, 2020
Louisville is using ankle-tracking bracelets, like the ones they put on criminals, on some COVID-19 patients who won’t stay home.
Louisville placing ankle monitors on residents exposed to coronavirus who won't stay home https://t.co/xY7VVvBkXK
— John Solomon (@jsolomonReports) April 5, 2020
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, there’s a sliding scale for fines of coronavirus scofflaws depending how close you were to a person:
“BREAKING: Halifax Regional Police confirm they issued *dozens* of COVID-19 tickets on Saturday. People at closed parks/beaches ($697.50 fine). People closer than 2m, or in groups larger than five ($1000 or $7500 fine).
Full weekend total to be released Monday.”
BREAKING: Halifax Regional Police confirm they issued *dozens* of COVID-19 tickets on Saturday. People at closed parks/beaches ($697.50 fine). People closer than 2m, or in groups larger than five ($1000 or $7500 fine).
Full weekend total to be released Monday. pic.twitter.com/E1ZD3kvDqT
— Brett Ruskin (@Brett_CBC) April 5, 2020
I suppose it could be worse. In India police are beating people who break social distancing rules:
— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) April 3, 2020
And in the Philippines there’s a shoot-to-kill order on people who ignore coronavirus distancing:
‘Shoot them dead’ — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte instructed police to use violence against citizens who defy the country’s COVID-19 lockdown orders pic.twitter.com/oibgwnb3HM
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 4, 2020
Drones are being used around the world to creepily prompt citizens to wear face masks and go home:
In Hove, England; Queensland, Australia; Jakarta, everywhere in China and Madrid, they’re using drones to spy on people. The drones are equipped with speakers to urge people to put on their masks and stop getting so close to each other.
When they’re not spying with drones, elsewhere in Jakarta, police are also scouring the social media of citizens to scrub what they consider as incorrect information on COVID-19. No word yet from Facebook on whether they’re upset that someone’s doing their job.
And then there are people out there like this 18-year-old kid, who claims to be COVID-19 positive and threatened to spread it around. They’re considering terrorism charges against her when they find her.
“Police in Carrollton, Texas, are asking for the public’s help to find an 18-year-old seen on social media claiming to be positive for COVID-19 and willfully spreading it.”
Police in Carrollton, Texas, are asking for the public's help to find an 18-year-old seen on social media claiming to be positive for COVID-19 and willfully spreading it. https://t.co/zd51zcgbcF
— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) April 6, 2020
But if you’re the cops in Malibu or the drone operators in Queensland, Australia, or the Nextdoor scolds who are upset if there are ten people on a beach, could you please keep some perspective – literally and figuratively? Go get the bad guys, but pick your spots better on the COVID-19 scofflaws.
Yes, the coronavirus started in Wuhan, China, but that doesn’t mean we need to act like we live in that surveillance state.
Or is it too late?