UK police use thermal drone to monitor close-contact party

The UK’s Greater Manchester Police department has just released drone footage that shows a unique new use-case scenario: Using a thermal camera to monitor a large gathering breaking local rules requiring social distancing due to COVID-19. As you’ll see, people were in pretty close quarters.

The challenge with the pandemic is that it’s here – and going to still be here for the considerable future. And the longer it’s around, the more likely people are to start becoming complacent and breaking the rules.

That’s precisely what happened over the weekend in the UK, where a massive party gathering saw very large numbers of young people gathering to party. This was a perfect scenario – people in close contact, drinking and speaking loudly – to spread COVID-19.

Welcome to the sardine party. Would you like COVID with that pint?

On Saturday, August 15, Greater Manchester Police received a call that there was a large residential house party going on. When they arrived, they estimated there were about 200 people at the party. And that’s not all. It wasn’t long before those partying were aware of the police presence:

Officers attended and, upon arrival, were pelted with missiles before establishing that approximately 200 people were in attendance.

Greater Manchester Police statement
Seriously. What are these people thinking?

Not cool with COVID

Of course, health officials have social distancing regulations in place for a reason. People in this kind of situation are at far greater risk of spreading – or catching – the virus. This was a particularly clear violation of those rules, and so Greater Manchester Police sought a three-month closure order. That would, in effect, ban the premises to everyone except the property owner and immediate tenants. Just a couple of days after this incident, a judge granted that request:

However, this incident was completely unacceptable and incomprehensible so I am pleased that the court has accepted our application to extend the 48-hour closure notice to ensure that there are no further illegal large gatherings at this property. I understand that this is a frustrating time – many of us want to see our loved ones but we need to continue complying. Enforcement is a last resort for GMP but today’s closure order is a warning that officers will take action if/ when necessary.

Inspector Jim Adams, Greater Manchester Police
The woman hopping the fence on the left side just caught her dress

Local council support

The closure also met with the approval of local City council:

This was a particularly flagrant breach of Covid-19 restrictions, which are in place to protect everyone in our communities and must be respected. It is only if we all play our part by acting responsibly and doing our bit that we will start to see cases coming down, thus avoiding the risk of further restrictions being brought into force. We welcome this tough action, which serves as a reminder that public health must be our first priority and that selfish breaches of the rules will not be tolerated.

Nigel Murphy, Deputy Leader Manchester City Council

The video

Using a drone equipped with a FLIR camera, officers obtained these thermal images. There can be no doubt there were a lot of people at the bash – and that they were definitely not obeying guidelines for social distancing.

We hope, obviously, that no one was infected during this event. And we also hope people will pay closer attention to social distancing guidelines.

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