Melbourne supermarkets struggling to run as staff are forced into isolation

Melbourne supermarkets are grappling with significant staff shortages as thousands of workers are being forced to isolate because of COVID-19.

Thousands of workers are serving mandatory isolation periods, leading to supermarkets having to cut opening hours and delays in stores fulfilling click-and-collect and delivery orders.

Coles Chief Operating Officer Matt Swindells said the current two-week isolation period required after a person was exposed to the virus was posing “a significant issue at a local level”.

Melbourne supermarkets are struggling to keep up with demand. (Rhett Wyman/SMH)

“We’re working towards living with COVID… but we’re applying eliminating COVID rules,” he said.

Mr Swindells is calling on the state government to urgently change the rules.

“We’ve got high levels of disruption through our workforce… the actual risk is very very low,” he said.

“If we look at the current government modelling, by mid-December, we would have to isolate almost a third of our entire Victorian workforce if we continue to follow those elimination protocols.”

In the past three months, 30,000 Coles employees have been forced to isolate for a fortnight, with the company saying none have tested positive.

Coles is feeling the strain of COVID-19. (Janie Barrett)

Most supermarkets in Craigieburn have been recent exposure sites, leaving them struggling to fill orders for people stuck at home.

“I know people who have waited like three or four days… sometimes the order gets cancelled as well,” supermarket worker Lexi said.

“So they’re just left in the lurch really… how do they get their food?”

Lexi is one of the 1000 Woolworths staff currently isolating after a COVID-19 positive case entered her Craigieburn supermarket.

Her two weeks in quarantine is supposed to be about to end and she said she had not heard anything from the Health Department.

Today the state government flagged two weeks in quarantine may not be required in future for those who are fully vaccinated.

However, there are no further details as yet.

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