Flight Centre’s CEO Graham Turner has taken aim at Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young, saying the doctor needs to “learn to live” with the virus, and that she is “wrong” for keeping the border closed.

Dr Young, along with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, have been repeatedly targeted for advising that the state should remain isolated from Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

Critics say the current border with NSW and Victoria is putting the Sunshine State into an even deeper recession, with Mr Turner saying the state needs to “learn to live” with coronavirus.

“Queensland is in a very bad recession at the moment,” Mr Turner told ABC Breakfast on Monday.

“Travel, tourism, airlines, airports are the worst affected but the whole of Queensland is in a recession.

“The basic thing is you can’t have an economic recovery plan that both parties are promoting without open borders. That’s what caused the recession in the first place.”

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Mr Turner said he thinks Dr Young’s health advice to keep the borders closed is “wrong” and that Australia, like other parts of the world, needs to learn to live with the virus.

“One thing we know is we have to live with this virus; it will be with us for some years,” he said.

“We should start living with it now. It’s about contact tracing … Queensland is good at (it), as is New South Wales, and Victoria is getting better. Even if we get a reasonably good vaccine, we will still live with the virus.

“The economic consequences of not living with the virus, keeping Queensland shut to the rest of the world is not sustainable. I’m afraid that it’s not a viable option what Jeannette Young is talking about (keeping borders closed).”

Dr Young addressed the criticism on Monday.

“It has taken an enormous toll on me, but then this has taken an enormous toll on nearly every single person in our community,” she said.

“I think this has been tough for everyone … but the support that they (Queensland Government) have shown to me has made me feel much, much safer doing what I need to do and knowing that I’m supported in doing it.”

Queensland’s top doctors have jumped to Dr Young’s defence, calling for critics of her border closure to “back off”.

Speaking to media on Sunday, the Australian Medical Association’s Queensland branch president Chris Perry said his colleague was simply acting on scientific decisions during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re an evidence-based organisation and we follow what the chief health officer says,” he said.

“What the chief health officer in Queensland says goes – it’s the law.”

Dr Perry said online trolls and the Federal Government should “leave her alone” and that Dr Young has been doing a “great job” throughout the pandemic.

“Back off. Leave her alone,” he said.

“We think this chief health officer is doing a great job. We’re doing a very, very good job in this state. Probably because Queensland politicians are listening very carefully to a very well-qualified physician.”

On Sunday, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles defended the border closures, saying the state will not reopen until Dr Young gives the all-clear.

Speaking to media, Mr Miles fired shots at the opposition, saying the LNP was trying to get the borders open in Queensland ahead of the election, despite other states still having restrictions in place.

“What’s really clear is the LNP at both a state and federal level are running a campaign to get our borders open,” Mr Miles said.

“I’d like to see the borders open too, by Christmas, but only if the health advice says that’s safe. Not just because of a political campaign from the LNP. Not just because it’s what Scott Morrison wants.”

LNP leader Deb Frecklington responded by calling for Queenslanders to ignore Mr Miles’ comments.

“We have to have strong borders to protect Queenslanders, but we need consistency, compassion and common sense too,” she said.

“We can’t have one rule for AFL stars and celebrities and another rule for ordinary Queenslanders whose families are being torn apart.”

Mr Miles’ comments come 24 hours after he lashed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his “extraordinary” criticism of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk after she refused to allow a Canberra woman go to her father’s funeral.


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