WA supermarket shelves are emptying as stores across the country suffer from severe inventory shortages, with more than a third of workers in the east apparently ill or isolated.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to explode in the eastern states, grocery store shelves in WA once again appear to be bare – but not because of panic shopping.
Major retailers, including Coles and Woolworths, are said to experience staff shortages of up to 35% in their distribution centers due to isolation requirements.
From suppliers to truck drivers and distribution center staff, the current health crisis is affecting workers in all areas, causing major logistical problems and disruption.
Photographs of Perth’s major supermarkets show dwindling stocks of meat, cat food, toilet paper and shelf-stable milk, among others.
Meanwhile, frozen products are also running out in some metropolitan and regional stores.
An official at the Perth transport company depot told The West Australian that only two of the usual six trucks carrying retail goods were due to arrive in WA on Monday due to understaffing.
“The company I work for currently has 17 of the 36 people on sick leave in Melbourne alone,” he said.
The depot manager, who did not want to be identified, expressed concern that WA suffered the same fate as the eastern states after the border was hard opened.
“I am worried about my operation here,” he said.
“It’s obviously a lot smaller than Melbourne or Sydney, but we’ll be screwed if a handful of people stay here.”
Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said last week that it was not yet clear how soon the system would return to balance as we cross the Omicron wave.
“It is clear that we are entering a very different phase of COVID, not least because of the high levels of community transmission associated with Omicron,” he said in a statement to customers.
“To give you an idea of the scale of the challenge, we know of 20% + Covid-related absences in our distribution centers and 10% + in our stores.”
Some Coles stores have also been forced to introduce limits on several meat products, including chicken, hash and sausages.
It comes as Australians have been urged to stock up on pain relievers, and many are at risk of being stricken with COVID-19 in the “coming days”.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd issued the warning on Sunday and advised the public to make sure he had paracetamol or ibuprofen at home just in case he tested positive for the virus.
“With the increasing number of cases that we have seen over the past week in many parts of the country, it is likely that many of us will test positive for COVID-19 over the next few days and weeks if we do not haven’t already. ” he said.
“It’s important to be prepared because you won’t be able to go to your supermarket or pharmacy if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. “