Australian supermarkets grapple with Covid-based staff shortages

Shelves are empty in supermarkets once again as staff shortages due to illness or isolation combine with ongoing supply chain difficulties.

Australia hit the grim milestone of more than 500,000 Covid cases since the pandemic began on Tuesday. Daily cases in the states and territories continue to rise, forcing tens of thousands into quarantine and even more close contacts into isolation.

Woolworths apologised for the lack of some products as distribution centres – particularly in Sydney – suffered from Covid absenteeism.

A spokesperson said they were working to replenish stores “as quickly as possible” as case numbers increase.

“The pandemic has delivered many challenges over the past two years and will continue to do so as we move into this next phase,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re currently experiencing delays with some of our stock deliveries to stores due to Covid-related impacts on our supply chain operations.”

Coles also apologised and promised shelves would be restocked as soon as possible.

“We are … seeing an increased number of team members being required to isolate due to household exposure to Covid while they wait for test results,” a spokesperson said.

“We are continuing to monitor team member availability across our business.”

Coles also said supply issues included a lack of shipping pallets and transport capacity. A global timber shortage has contributed to a lack of pallets to move goods around.

The challenge has been compounded by Covid-related factory closures overseas, as well as increasing local freight costs and a looming shortage of urea, a critical component of diesel fuel.

“We have been working with our suppliers and other stakeholders to address a number of supply chain issues including availability of shipping pallets and transport capacity, to ensure we can continue to provide our customers with the food and drinks they need,” the Coles spokesperson said.

An Aldi spokesperson said Covid was putting additional pressure on its supply chain but that it was doing its best to minimise any disruption.

Shoppers reported shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and other products including toilet paper. The issues facing those products are different from the shortage of rapid antigen tests, which stem from a lack of supply altogether.


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