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Qld elections forge on despite virus fears

Queensland's local council elections will be held on Saturday amid concerns by many about the spead of COVID-19.

The polls have been overshadowed by the virus, which led to a walk out of staff from the call centre of the Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ), because they were "exempt" from social distancing.

One worker told AAP that she and others walked out of the call centre on Thursday, fearing they could become infected.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said conditions were cramped, with staff working in pairs inside small cubicles to process phone votes.

"The cubicles are no more than 1.5 metres wide," the woman said.

She said there were about 120 people crammed into the centre at any given time.

The ECQ hired dozens of temporary workers to deal with the unprecedented number of telephone votes.

The woman and other temporary workers who showed up for training ended up walking away on Thursday when it became clear no effort was being made to enforce social distancing.

But an ECQ spokesperson said the workers are "exempt" from social distancing precautions, and other steps were being taken instead.

"The volume of requests for telephone voting is unprecedented, at more than 10 times any previous election," the spokesman said.

"Our staff work in pairs to ensure one is speaking to the elector and the other is auditing the process.

"While workplaces are exempt from social distancing measures, we regularly clean all surfaces and provide hand sanitiser and breaks to wash hands."

More than 30,000 voters have applied to cast their ballot over the phone, keen to avoid polling booths and potential infection.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has faced a barrage of questions about why Saturday's elections have not been called off amid the coronavirus crisis.

But she and the state's chief health officer say it is safe for people to head out to vote, as long as they practice social distancing and good hygiene.

Senior doctors from the Gold Coast want the elections postponed, The Guardian Australia reports.

Virologist from the University of Queensland, Ian Mackay, told the ABC the election going ahead was a decision that "boggles the mind".

Gold Coast lawyer Ron Behlau says those who don't vote over fears of the virus should not be fined.

"These are people who are marginalised and probably can't afford the fine," Mr Behlau told AAP.

"Some have lost their jobs in this critical time - I think it is unfair."

The NSW government announced their local elections, scheduled for September, will be postponed due to coronavirus.

Mr Behlau said this is an example of the seriousness of the crisis.

There will also be two by-elections on Saturday for the state government - the seats of Bundamba and Currumbin.

© AAP 2020