Urgent talks to address supply chain issue

Andrew Brown |

Ministers are meeting with essential sectors to resolve supply chain shortages caused by COVID-19.
Ministers are meeting with essential sectors to resolve supply chain shortages caused by COVID-19.

Urgent health meetings continue to take place on which business sectors will have COVID-isolation rules relaxed after rapidly rising virus numbers led to widespread supply chain issues.

Talks between federal ministers and industry took place overnight and will pick up again on Wednesday to help address coronavirus-induced staff shortages.

Supply chains of essential services have been severely impacted by the outbreak, with thousands of people isolating after having contracted the virus or being designated a close contact.

The supply issues have forced some major food retailers to enforce product limits on several items.

Discussions have been held between acting Small Business Minister Anne Ruston and industry groups.

The talks come after the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee released preliminary advice on Monday for grocery supply workers, which would allow them to come out of isolation and back to work if they test negative after being a close contact.

The advice will be presented to national cabinet when it next meets on Thursday.

Work is also under way to expand the advice to other essential sectors such as medical suppliers, aviation, childcare and education.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set on Wednesday to meet with the National Coordinating Mechanism and ministers to discuss possible changes to the AHPPC advice.

Among the changes are that essential services should ensure workers receive a COVID-19 booster shot.

Staff in essential services would be able to continue to work after an exposure provided they have a negative rapid test, with regular rapid testing afterwards.

The exact timing of how often the rapid testing would need to be undertaken for employees is yet to be determined.

It comes after more than 35,000 five to 11-year-olds received the COVID-19 vaccine during the first day of the child rollout.

Despite large numbers of children being vaccinated, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Karen Price, said the efforts were being hampered by supply issues.

She said many appointments were being cancelled at clinics across the country due to the vaccines not arriving on time.

“GPs and their practice teams are trying to vaccinate the nation’s children with one arm tied behind their back,” she said.

“Omicron cases are escalating and term one of school is fast approaching. Urgent improvements to the children’s vaccine rollout must happen now.”

Health authorities have said there was enough supply of the vaccine to ensure all of the 2.3 million children in the five to 11-year-old demographic were able to get a vaccine before the start of school.

Meanwhile, more than 215,000 booster shots were administered nationally on Monday, taking the total to more than 3.8 million adults.

Health authorities are currently reviewing whether to expand the eligibility of booster shots to 16 and 17-year-olds.

More than 90,000 cases were reported nationally on Tuesday.

In NSW there were 25,870 new cases along with 11 deaths, while Victoria registered 37,994 cases and 13 deaths.

A new fatality was recorded in Queensland, as the state notched up 20,566 cases, with Tasmania announcing 1379 new infections.

There was one new death in the ACT, with a record 1508 infections in the national capital, while there were 2921 cases in South Australia and 594 in the Northern Territory.