How we're managing social distancing when we have to queue

Social distancing has become the norm but what happens when you have to go out where you know there will be crowds?

On Saturday Queensland will hold a local government election. Elections will be held for mayors and councillors across Queensland's 77 councils.

Residents are being encouraged to vote early to avoid crowds and people are listening, which is leading to queues.

Kree Kennedy, went to vote in Townsville, where there is one pre-poll station for 180,000 people. She said: "My husband and I thought we would try to get voting done early for the local government elections.

"It seems everyone has the same idea of trying to avoid being out on Saturday with mass crowds. This voting centre is large, and the lines were long - partially due to very rough social distancing attempts."

She added: "Given the updates I am not sure how the government can say don't go out, then literally force people out to do this and risk such exposure."

In Centrelink offices across the country people are queuing up to get advice and support.

In Dapto, south west of Wollongong people queued down the street.

They stood 1.5-metres apart, but the sight of so many people out during a pandemic sparked the ire of Whitlam MP Stephen Jones, who has written to Government Services minister Stuart Robert, calling for the entire process to be moved online.

"This is madness during a pandemic. It poses a threat to public safety and to Centrelink staff. I cannot understand why this was not anticipated and dealt with," he wrote, in a letter.

Mr Jones also questioned why a large workforce of public servants at a nearby government office had not been taken off debt recovery jobs and redeployed to tackle the "enormous back of house workload" surrounding the newly unemployed.

"I am advised that many of these staff have the skills and could be quickly redeployed to relieve pressure and reduce queues on front line staff. How can chasing down debt be more important than dealing with the immediate needs of my constituents? The debt will still be there when the crisis has passed and it can be pursued then. The needs of unemployed people are urgent and must be dealt with now."

The current Department of Health social distancing guidelines for public places are as follows:

  • stay at home unless is absolutely necessary
  • keep 1.5 metres away from others
  • avoid physical greetings such as handshaking, hugs and kisses
  • use tap and pay instead of cash
  • travel at quiet times and avoid crowds
  • avoid public gatherings and at risk groups
  • practise good hygiene

Meanwhile people who need to access Centrelink are being advised to use the website.

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This story How we're managing social distancing when we have to queue first appeared on The Canberra Times.