“The primary objective is to reinforce the serious nature of the environment we’re in.”
Mr McGowan said the drones would be equipped with lights, sirens and speakers, and could be operated from up to one kilometre away.
It follows police being given greater powers to charge people for ‘failing to follow a directive’ if they breach social distancing and self-isolation requirements, with on-the-spot $1000 fines also expected to be introduced this week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday afternoon banned any social gathering of more than two people and encouraged Australian residents to stay home unless it was to buy essentials, exercise, attend medical appointments, or go to work or school.
Under the new restrictions, the only exceptions to the crackdown were people who lived together, people in a family unit, or people attending a wedding (5 people maximum) or funeral (10 people maximum).
On Monday, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said a dedicated police squad with more than 200 officers would begin patrolling WA’s streets to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
It follows two men being charged since Friday with breaching mandatory self-isolation laws after returning home from overseas, one in Geraldton, one in Perth. Both were dobbed in by members of the public.
“We all have to take this really seriously, but we’re concentrating chiefly on gatherings and the self-isolation elements, this is because there has been a really strong emphasis on social distancing, but we’ve seen when people are not taking it sufficiently seriously,” Mr Dawson told Radio 6PR.
“We need to target people who do not understand if you’re walking around in close contact with each other, you’re not getting the message, so we will enforce it.”
Mr Dawson also flagged regional road blocks which would be in place from Tuesday afternoon, after WA shut its regional borders to intrastate travel.
Those who need to travel between regions during the closure will be required to show authorities identification and proof of their essential reason for travel.
“I don’t want this to be punitive, I don’t want this to be a situation where we’re just slapping out fines,” Mr Dawson said.
“We really need the community to both understand the critical importance of this and actually understand that it’s for their own safety.
“The deterrence of a fine is one thing … people need to actually recognise that this is for your safety.”
The state government has been unable to provide a figure of the number of West Australians in mandatory 14-day self-isolation, with the rule applying to all those returning from overseas since March 16, from interstate since March 24, those who have coronavirus or are awaiting test results, and those who are a close contact of a confirmed case.
The number is expected to be in the tens of thousands, and Mr Dawson said decreasing numbers of people returning to the state in recent days was allowing police to get the situation “under greater control”.
“People are very anxious, people are distressed, people are uncertain, and what we need to do is to provide a great deal of discretion and commonsense about this,” he said.
“But that doesn’t mean that people can … make up their own excuses, if they’re going to do the wrong thing – and I must stress the vast majority of West Australians are doing the right thing – but if people have been told no you can’t go into a certain area and we find they do, then they will be fined.”
The massive police operation to ensure residents are obeying the new rules may require additional support from the Australian Federal Police and the defence force, with people arriving from overseas or interstate from Monday being required to self-isolate under supervision at either Rottnest Island or a Perth hotel.
Police patrols were already in place at Perth’s popular beaches and police were assisting WA’s remote Aboriginal communities to be protected from the virus reaching their area.
WA Police have set up an incident command centre at Optus Stadium and three other smaller centres across the Perth metropolitan area to manage the state of emergency.
Heather McNeill is the crime and courts editor at WAtoday.