Virus won't stop Queensland elections

Queensland's 3.2 million electors are still expected to cast votes in upcoming local elections despite advice against mass gatherings due to coronavirus.

As Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton took the state's coronavirus figure to 35 and cases started being recorded outside the southeast, Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said there was "rapidly growing demand" for postal voting and early voting for upcoming polls.

Queensland's 77 councils and two state seats will be up for election on March 28.

Mr Schrinner said he had asked Queensland's local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe for "an urgent extension" to the postal vote applications cut-off - which takes effect at 7pm AEST on Monday.

"The good news is that it's not too late to apply for a postal vote," he said.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland on Friday said it had carefully considered advice on coronavirus, including that organised non-essential mass gatherings of over 500 people be cancelled.

Early voting will be available from Monday, with details on booth opening times on the ECQ website.

The ECQ said it would monitor attendance at booths to prevent more than 500 voters at any one time and offer telephone voting to those aged care facilities and other "declared facilities".

Electors can also bring their own pens and pencils to cast their vote, if they wish.

"The forthcoming Queensland elections are essential public events required to ensure the continuity of democratic representation and public administration across the state," commissioner Pat Vidgen said in a statement.

"It is extremely unlikely that more than 500 people would ever be in a polling booth at any one time, and electors generally only spend a short period of time in a booth."

Eight new cases of coronavirus were recorded on Friday, including Mr Dutton and cases in Rockhampton and Kingaroy.

Mr Dutton said he woke up on Friday with a temperature and sore throat and later tested positive to COVID-19. He has been hospitalised as per procedure.

Queensland is testing 1000 people a day as it plans for a worst-case scenario of 1.25 million people contracting the virus by September, Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said.

While elections will continue, Brisbane's St Patrick's Day parade, the city's World Science Festival and the state's biggest country music festival, CMC Rocks Qld have all been cancelled.

The World Surf League's opening championship tour event, the Corona Gold Coast Open, due to begin March 26, and the state surf lifesaving championships were also canned.

 


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