“The food and beverage industry in Victoria is becoming increasingly concerned that overly restrictive COVID isolation rules could cut Christmas supplies for the nation’s businesses,” Tim Piper, Victorian Head of the peak employer association Ai Group said today.
“Overly zealous Victorian Health Department rules on defining close and casual contacts and increasing directions to isolate, are shutting businesses unnecessarily at a time when they are starting or planning to ramp up Christmas production.
“The rules also run the risk of leading to rubbish piling up on our streets as the waste and logistics industries are subject to these same restrictions.
“Other states have well defined and sensible isolation rules that don’t shut down entire operations and Victorian Health is frankly well behind the game and needs to catch up fast.
“Rather than shutting operations and production lines, officials need to actively take measures to support maintaining supply chains or they risk cancelling the Christmas recovery for local businesses and putting jobs at risk.
“Food and beverage manufacturers in particular are being required to furlough an unnecessarily high number of employees where there have been COVID cases in parts of a factory or distribution centre.
“Already there are over 100,000 employees sitting at home in Victoria because they have been required to isolate. This number could be significantly reduced if we used an isolation system similar to other parts of the world, or developed conformity with the New South Wales model.
“Food and beverage shortages will be inevitable. Already we have seen bread, packaging, meat processing and breweries being forced to shut down parts of their operation. If the current restrictions continue, inevitably there will be shortages in many areas and our supermarket shelves will be running on reserves.
“Essential services such as the waste industry and the logistics industry also need to be looked at with the same understanding as food and beverages to ensure continuity of services,” Mr Piper said.