An unprecedented hard border closure and police drones will be used to help enforce public gathering restrictions in WA during the coronavirus pandemic, while some travellers quarantining in hotels may be forced to pay.
Premier Mark McGowan said a harder border closure – likely to be in place by next week – would prevent the spread of the virus from more infected states.
“This kind of border restriction is unprecedented across Australia, but we are in an unprecedented situation,” he told reporters on Monday.
Mr McGowan said the government was working to ensure a one-month hard border closure was logistically manageable before revealing further details.
Exceptions would be made for freight, essential workers and on compassionate grounds, but interstate fly-in, fly-out travel would be wound down.
The premier said there were early indications WA was better-placed to ride out the crisis than the eastern states.
“Sydney is obviously the crisis point and Melbourne is not as bad, but clearly difficult as well,” he said.
“Western Australia is doing far better than both of those places.”
Drones fitted with flashing police lights and sirens will be used to patrol beaches, parks and other areas, and will be able to deliver warnings to people disrespecting social distancing rules.
Those found to be breaching the rules face a $1000 on-the-spot fine.
Mr McGowan also announced a $159 million COVID-19 relief fund, through Lotterywest, would assist not-for-profit community groups.
Rent will also be waived at state government-owned properties for six months at an expected cost of $25 million.
Meanwhile, 29 Artania cruise ship passengers infected with coronavirus have been taken to a 145-bed private facility co-located at Joondalup Health Campus.
Some patients have healthy partners, who will stay at the Duxton Hotel in Perth.
The Australian Nursing Federation and Australian Medical Association have backed the new arrangement, saying Joondalup Health Campus has properly prepared staff.
More than 800 healthy passengers and some crew have flown back to Europe, while 479 crew remain onboard the Artania, which will leave soon.
About 200 WA travellers onboard the Vasco da Gama liner have been ferried to Rottnest Island for a fortnight in quarantine.
A further 600 Australians will be quarantined at the Duxton Hotel for two weeks before flying home.
Vasco da Gama is scheduled to depart for London on Monday night with all 552 crew onboard.
About 270 healthy Australian passengers from Italian cruise liners flew into Perth on Monday on a Qatar Airways aircraft and will also be quarantined.
Mr McGowan said while it was not fair to ask cruise ship passengers to pay for their quarantine accommodation, the government was looking at options for some other travellers.
“For people who raced off to Bali a week ago and are now coming home, I’m pretty angry with them … if we can make them pay, we will,” he said.
WA had 17 new local cases overnight, taking the state’s total to 355.
About 84 per cent of WA’s total cases have been linked to cruises, or overseas and interstate travel.
Health Minister Roger Cook said WA would expand testing in coming days to anyone with a fever and acute respiratory illness.