‘Thousands of new infections’ if election goes ahead
A QUEENSLAND surgeon has blasted the decision to go ahead with the state's local government poll tomorrow as "absolutely ludicrous", predicting a big spike in COVID-19 cases in a fortnight as a result.
With the number of Queensland cases of the pandemic strain of coronavirus perilously close to breaking through the 500 barrier today, bowel cancer surgeon Peter Gourlas predicted thousands of new infections within 14 days of the election if it was not called off.
"If you're serious about flattening the curve, call the election off," he said.
"You'll have all these old people turning up to vote because they can't afford a fine and they're the highest risk patient.
"They've all got to stand in a queue, go to a cubicle that everyone else has touched, pick up the ballot paper that someone has touched. It's crazy."
All 13 Australians who have died from COVID-19 have been in their 60s or older. At least four of them had been on cruise ships in the days leading up to their deaths.
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD
Dr Gourlas, who works at the Princess Alexandra, Greenslopes Private and Mater hospitals, said the decision to go ahead with the election watered down messages about social distancing aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.
"The public are confused enough," he said. "They're being told: 'Don't go out. Don't do all these things. But please go out and vote, otherwise we'll fine you'. It's ridiculous."
Dr Gourlas called for the local government elections to be postponed for 12 months.
"Don't put everyone else at risk over something that's not important at this point in time," he said. "We've got much more important things happening in the world right now than an election."
But Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was more worried about people going to bottle shops than polling booths, describing scenes at Dan Murphys as "appalling".
"The risks of actually going to a shop, to Coles or Woolworths, or Dan Murphys, are far, far higher than voting on Saturday," Dr Young said.
A coalition of peak health consumer groups throughout Australia says allowing people to vote in the upcoming election and to queue for hours outside Centrelink offices is contributing to "inconsistent messaging" at a time when Australians are also being told to practise social distancing.
Health Consumers Queensland CEO Melissa Fox said the groups wanted Australian governments to invoke maximum measures to halt the "exponential growth of COVID-19 infections in Australia" including closure of all non-essential services and the lockdown of neighbourhoods with infection clusters.
Queensland's cases of the virus remain mostly concentrated in the state's southeast with 267 cases in and around Brisbane, 91 on the Gold Coast and 56 on the Sunshine Coast.
But infections in regional areas continue to emerge with 17 on the Darling Downs, 12 in Wide Bay, 12 in the Cairns and hinterland region, 11 in Townsville, five in Central Queensland and five in Mackay.
No cases have been recorded in the state's Central West, South West, North West and the Torres Strait and Cape regions.
Health Minister Steven Miles said more than 40,000 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in Queensland, putting the state among the highest testers in the world on a population basis.
"It is that testing, that world-best level testing, that is allowing us to contain this virus," Mr Miles said.
He said rates of hospitalisations and intensive care admissions in Queensland were so far much lower than expected.
Queensland cases represent 17.6 per cent of the Australian total of 2799 COVID-19 infections.
NSW has 1219 cases, representing more than 43 per cent of the national numbers.
Originally published as 'Thousands of new infections' if election goes ahead