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Australia's Queensland holds polls amid virus outbreak

Published : Mar 28, 2020, 12:07 pm IST
Updated : Mar 28, 2020, 12:07 pm IST

The vote came as confirmed virus cases in Australia rose above 3,500 on Saturday, with 14 deaths

AFP Phtoo
 AFP Phtoo

Sydney: People in the Australian state of Queensland were urged to vote in local elections on Saturday or face a fine of Aus$133 ($80), as polls went ahead despite most citizens being encouraged to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The state's top health official said it was safe to vote in person as long as people followed social distancing guidelines.

"There's no risk here, we've got to remember the risk of people going to the shops is far, far higher," Jeannette Young told reporters.

Many of the three million eligible voters had cast their ballot early, or remotely by post or telephone.

However long queues were reported outside some booths on Saturday due to safety measures limiting the number of people allowed inside at once. Queueing voters were told to stand 1.5 metres (5 feet) apart and asked to bring their own pens.

Compulsory voting remained in place, but those who were self-isolating due to illness could apply to have fines waived, state health minister Steven Miles said. It was unclear whether healthy people could cite fear of infection as a valid reason for not voting.

The vote came as confirmed virus cases in Australia rose above 3,500 on Saturday, with 14 deaths.

Tags: australia covid-19, queensland government