CANBERRA, AAP – The head of Woolworths has worked to quell concerns about supply shortages as supermarket shelves are left bare.
Bradford Banducci said customers won’t be left hungry but some concessions needed to be made due to the increased demand.
“There is enough product in our supply chain to meet the needs of our customers (but) it might not always be their favourite brand unfortunately,” he told the ABC on Monday.
Mr Banducci said supply issues would likely last for the next two to three weeks as the country comes to the predicted peak of Omicron cases.
He noted he was taking a conservative estimate, with his team saying supply would be able to meet demand by the end of the week.
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NSW and Queensland have moved to try and ease pressure by easing quarantine requirements for close contacts.
It’s a move that’s been branded as reckless by the Transport Workers Union which is worried it would only exacerbate shortages if there were breakouts in workplaces.
National secretary Michael Kaine expressed his dismay at the changes.
“Close contacts are more likely now than ever to have the virus, because of Omicron and definition of close contacts,” he told the ABC on Monday.
“The concern is they will be required to work. That means you have people (who are) the most likely to have the virus in workplaces.
“There is a real danger here that this might make matters worse.”
The Australian Retailers Association said access to rapid antigen tests needed to be a priority for workers, calling for them to be made free and immediately available for essential frontline retail and distribution centre workers.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the number of staff who are impacted by COVID-19 has hit unprecedented levels.
“With workforce resources so constrained we are asking for a focus on directing testing resources where they are most needed to support essential services, and reducing reporting red-tape and administration processes as much as possible,” he said.
“We are getting member feedback that the new employer reporting requirements from the states are onerous, overwhelming teams and causing much needed resources to be diverted into administration which is a roadblock to other safety and support issues.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the federal government was working to address supply chain issues after the prime minister convened an urgent meeting with his top ministers and bureaucrats on Sunday.
“We are dealing with (supermarket staff shortages) and making sure we keep people at work because that’s how we keep food on the shelf,” he told the Seven Network on Monday.
The head of the vaccine rollout, Lieutenant General John Frewen, said distribution also remained a problem for the vaccine as children aged between five and 11 become eligible for their first dose.
“Supply of vaccines now isn’t the concern. Distribution is our hardest challenge,” he told the Nine Network on Monday.
“We’re working around the clock to make sure that we’re getting the vaccines out to all of the places we can get them too.”