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Major supermarkets welcome staff quarantine exemption amid supply challenges

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The major supermarkets have welcomed changes that allow close contacts to continue to work across Queensland.

Workers deemed as “critically essential” can leave quarantine to perform their roles if they have no COVID symptoms and are fully vaccinated.

Staff must wear a mask, travel to and from work in private transport, get a Day 6 test and comply with their employer requirements under the statewide changes.

Representatives from Coles and Woolworths say the move will help stores continue to operate. 

“The new measures, which are subject to stringent safety protocols including the use of rapid antigen testing, will support us to deliver more of the food and essentials our customers need to our stores," a Coles spokesperson said.

“We’re confident we can safely implement these changes given the numerous safety measures we’ve had in place across our Distribution Centres since the pandemic began,” a Woolworths spokesperson said in a statement.

“We thank governments at all levels for their continued engagement and assistance with measures to support the industry during this challenging time.”

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Supply issues

The change comes as many supermarket shelves have been stripped bare. 

In a letter to customers, Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said it’s due to a large number of people in the supply chain being forced into isolation.

With suppliers, truck drivers and distribution centre workers caught up in COVID outbreaks there have been delays with store deliveries, Mr Banducci said.

“We are experiencing COVID-driven absences of 20 per cent plus in our distribution centres and 10 per cent plus in our stores.”

It’s the same situation for Coles with additional issues at play.

“Recent increases in COVID case numbers in the community have required more people to isolate, which has impacted the availability of labour throughout the food supply chain,"  Coles said. 

“At a time when inventory levels were already reduced in the post-Christmas period, our distribution centres are receiving fewer inbound deliveries and we have fewer team members available to process and dispatch stock to our stores.”

“Meanwhile demand is elevated as customers choose to eat more meals at home to reduce their exposure to the rest of the community.”

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Purchase limits

Coles has introduced purchase limits in all of its stores to help manage demand.

Customers can only buy 2 packs of mince, chicken breast and thighs, sausages and paracetamol, with one pack limits on toilet paper and rapid antigen tests.

Both supermarkets are asking customers to be patient, treat staff with respect and to only buy what they need.

Woolworth’s Brad Banducci said it’s not yet clear how long it will take for their system to bounce back. 

“We understand how frustrating it is when you can’t find the product you’re looking for and, together with our suppliers and supply chain partners, we’re working hard to get all products back on shelf as quickly as we can.”

Customers are encouraged to remain flexible and opt for alternative products if something they need is unavailable.

Woolworths says items will be substituted on all online orders, while Coles is encouraging people to opt in for substitution.

(Photos: Middle - Lynda Rohan via Facebook)