Supermarkets will soon be allowed to restock their shelves 24 hours a day, after the number of Queenslanders with COVID-19 leapt overnight.
- Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says there is no need to stockpile unnecessarily
- New laws will allow supermarkets to truck in supplies day and night
- Regional supermarkets may also be granted extended trading hours
The state’s Health Minister Steven Miles said today there were 94 cases in the state, up from 78 yesterday.
New laws are being fast-tracked to increase supermarkets’ logistic operations in the wake of recent panic buying, with Monday the earliest the legislation can come into effect.
Current restrictions prevent some stores from restocking and operating their loading docks outside of business hours, hindering the process to replenish stock.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she understood people were stressed but there was no need to stockpile food.
Furthermore, if you are in isolation and you run out of food, call 13HEALTH who can organise for food to be delivered, she said.
“Our mighty Queensland manufacturers and food processors are keeping supplies flowing,” she said.
“We are not running out of products. But we need to make these changes to get products on the shelves as quickly as possible.”
Extended regional shopping hours
Ms Palaszczuk also flagged the possibility of allowing grocery stores in regional areas to open earlier and stay open longer, in line with their counterparts in the south-east corner.
National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb said it would allow large supermarket chains to implement special trading hours for the elderly and people with disabilities.
“It makes sense that this opening time should be available right across Queensland, particularly in the unusual circumstances we now confront,” she said.
QUT early shutdown
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has announced that from Monday, all lectures will be livestreamed and all tutorials, workshops and small-team activities paused for a week.
The mid-semester break is being extended by one week, meaning all teaching will finish on April 3 and resume on April 20.
“At that time, the university’s goal is to have the majority of learning and teaching activities in an online mode, supplemented by necessary small-group activities with appropriate distancing and hygiene measures in place,” QUT said on its website.
Testing laboratories to expand
Of the 94 people diagnosed in the state so far, including US actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, Queensland Health said nine patients had recovered.
Mr Miles said the Red Cross had made more than 8,800 welfare calls to more than 3,400 people around the state who are in self-isolation.
At least 19 fever clinics have been opened and more are expected in coming weeks with about 20,000 tests having been conducted across the state.
Mr Miles said health authorities would double the number of public laboratories able to test for COVID-19.
Currently samples are only tested in Brisbane and Townsville but that will be expanded to include sites in Toowoomba, Rockhampton and the Sunshine Coast.
Older voters told to avoid council elections
Queenslanders aged 60 years and older are being urged to avoid attending the March 28 local government and state by-election voting day.
Instead, the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) wants those who have not registered for a postal vote to attend a pre-poll booth between 9:00am and 11:00am, with extra staff on during those hours.
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said 128 early polling centres would be open from 9:00am to 9:00pm today and tomorrow and 9:00am to 5:00am on Friday and Saturday.
Those attending polling booths have been encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil.
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Elderly take to the shops
Senior citizen Margot McGregor took advantage of so-called “elderly hour” at the supermarket this morning.
She was buying food at Greenslopes, in Brisbane’s south, for a friend who recently returned from overseas and is self-isolating.
“He’s been stuck in his house without any food since Sunday, so he sent me out to forage,” she said.
Ms McGregor was surprised at the amount of older people who turned out.
“It was a bit frantic,” she said.
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“But it was good to have the opportunity instead of having the young’ns beating me to the shelf.”
Ron Hartley bought a week’s worth of food.
“It’s a great idea, especially for the old people who are a bit dotty, they get knocked over in the rush.”
Sunshine Coast butcher Andrew Higgins told the ABC he cannot meet the demand of panicked buyers.
“I have seen pure, pure insanity, that’s all I’ve seen,” he said.
“On a normal average week, I would probably sell 12 to 14 kilos of mince a day — yesterday I sold probably 220 kilos of mince in one day.”
Clive Palmer makes large COVID-19 donation
Businessman Clive Palmer has donated $1 million to Queensland researchers to help find a coronavirus cure.
Mr Palmer said in a Facebook post that the money would go to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, where clinical trials were set to begin on a possible breakthrough drug.
He has urged others to “dig deep to defeat this threat”.
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