Scott Morrison says supermarket shelf stackers will be allowed back to work if Covid close contact


Scott Morrison confirms major shakeup to isolation rules to allow employees exposed to Covid-infected cases to continue working amid nation-wide staff shortages

  • Scott Morrison confirmed supermarket stackers allowed to work if close contact
  • Prime Minister stressed checkout staff with Covid won’t be serving customers
  • But he said Australian workers in essential industries needed to return to work  


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Scott Morrison has confirmed supermarket shelf stackers who were a close contact with a Covid-positive case would be allowed back to work if they are asymptomatic.

The Prime Minister stressed Coles and Woolworths checkout staff who served customers would not be back at work before self isolating. 

But with food on short supply at supermarkets, Mr Morrison said workers in essential industries who didn’t serve customers would be allowed back at work, including night-time shelf stackers.

‘Not customer facing, I should note on the food side,’ he said.

‘If we’re talking about Coles and Woolies, we’re not talking about people who are working on checkouts. 

‘Anyone who’s customer facing, they are not doing that, but those who are driving trucks to deliver the food, those who are stacking the shelves at night, those who are at the distribution centre, those who are in the abattoirs.’ 

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Scott Morrison has confirmed supermarket shelf stackers who tested positive to Covid will be allowed back to work if they are asymptomatic

Scott Morrison has confirmed supermarket shelf stackers who tested positive to Covid will be allowed back to work if they are asymptomatic

Scott Morrison has confirmed supermarket shelf stackers who tested positive to Covid will be allowed back to work if they are asymptomatic

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has endorsed a new set of arrangements covering staff in critical supply chains, including food processing, food production and distribution.

‘You can shut everything but there will be no food on the shelves,’ Mr Morrison said.

‘The issue goes to workplaces being eroded.

‘What that involves is asymptomatic, close contacts being able to go to work in those sectors.

‘We’re very focused on the non-customer-facing roles in the critical supply chains.’ 

National cabinet is now considering a series of recommendations, which could be extended to cover transport and aviation.

Mr Morrison said lockdowns were the alternative to letting asymptomatic workers back on the job in essential industries.  

‘You push through, you don’t lock down,’ he said.  

The Prime Minister made the declaration after Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci revealed absentee levels at Australia’s biggest supermarket chain were at 40 per cent.

Major employers are requiring staff to take routine rapid antigen tests.

The Prime Minister stressed Coles and Woolworths checkout staff who served customers would not be back at work before self isolating. But with food on short supply at supermarkets, Mr Morrison said workers in essential industries who didn't serve customers would be allowed back at work, including night-time shelf stackers (pictured is a Woolworths baker at Marrickville in Sydney's inner west loaded hot cross buns into an oven)

The Prime Minister stressed Coles and Woolworths checkout staff who served customers would not be back at work before self isolating. But with food on short supply at supermarkets, Mr Morrison said workers in essential industries who didn't serve customers would be allowed back at work, including night-time shelf stackers (pictured is a Woolworths baker at Marrickville in Sydney's inner west loaded hot cross buns into an oven)

The Prime Minister stressed Coles and Woolworths checkout staff who served customers would not be back at work before self isolating. But with food on short supply at supermarkets, Mr Morrison said workers in essential industries who didn’t serve customers would be allowed back at work, including night-time shelf stackers (pictured is a Woolworths baker at Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west loaded hot cross buns into an oven)

The Prime Minister made the declaration after Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci revealed absentee levels at Australia's biggest supermarket chain were at 40 per cent (pictured are empty boxes in the fruit and vegetable section of a Sydney Woolworths)

The Prime Minister made the declaration after Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci revealed absentee levels at Australia's biggest supermarket chain were at 40 per cent (pictured are empty boxes in the fruit and vegetable section of a Sydney Woolworths)

The Prime Minister made the declaration after Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci revealed absentee levels at Australia’s biggest supermarket chain were at 40 per cent (pictured are empty boxes in the fruit and vegetable section of a Sydney Woolworths)

On Sunday, New South Wales and Queensland eased isolation requirements for food and grocery workers, allowing asymptomatic workers who are close contacts to continue working if they return negative tests.

National cabinet at the end of December agreed to change the definition of close contact to mean someone who spent four hours or more with someone in a residential or aged care setting. 

New daily Omicron cases in most states in the thousands each day, and Australians are now routinely being notified on state government QR code check-in apps that they had been in the same place as a Covid-positive person, from supermarkets to cafes. 

Mr Morrison said it was ‘a bit too early to tell’ when asked about the effects on the economy as the high numbers of Covid cases ‘had a dampening impact on consumer demand’. 

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