Doctors have told Queenslanders to wear face masks when they vote this weekend and want fast-track lanes to limit the risk of older people catching coronavirus.
All 77 local government elections will go ahead on Saturday, as Australia’s death toll rises to 11 and the virus continues to spread across the nation, including in Queensland.
The Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association is demanding more action to limit public health risks.
“We are recommending that those who have face masks to wear them when they are at the polling stations,” AMAQ president Dr Dilip Dhupelia said on Thursday.
He wants separate fast-track lanes to ensure older people are at polling booths for the shortest possible time.
And he says the government should waive fines for anyone who doesn’t vote “for legitimate reasons to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19”.
“It is critical that people who are sick do not attend polling booths. If you are unwell or in isolation, it’s important to stay at home for the full duration of the 14-day quarantine period, even if you have tested negative for COVID-19,” Dr Dhupelia said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has told Queenslanders it’s safe for the elections to proceed, with a third of people having already voted.
She’s cited medical advice supporting the decision to press ahead but says people must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others.
The Queensland Electoral Commission is telling voters to bring their own pens, and no more than 100 people will be allowed at polling centres at a time.
It’s also promised to provide hand sanitiser where available, additional cleaning of booths, and a focus on social distancing rules.
There’s also a ban on how to vote or other election material being handed out.
Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate has backed the call to proceed, saying there’s only a low risk of people getting the virus at polling booths.
“I don’t want to box at shadows but it won’t be that busy,” he said, noting the high pre-poll rate.
“Reputation wise, (there would be) more reputable damage if it was cancelled against Queensland Health advice.”
Mr Tate said the state needed to push ahead with the polls so local councils are not stuck in caretaker mode, unable to fully function.