| 12 December 2023, Tuesday |

Australia suffers record COVID cases, straining businesses and supply chains

Daily coronavirus infections in Australia reached a new high on Thursday, fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron form, overloading hospitals and placing a burden on companies and supply networks. Isolation regulations produced labor shortages, putting a strain on businesses and supply systems.

Despite the fact that the count for Thursday is still incomplete, Australia has recorded 72,392 new illnesses, considerably surpassing the previous high of 64,774 established a day earlier. Western Australia will upload its fresh cases later this week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is up for re-election in May, is under fire for his handling of the Omicron epidemic, which has resulted in antigen test shortages and hours-long lines at testing facilities.

Having successfully kept a lid in its COVID-19 caseload through aggressive lockdowns earlier in the pandemic, Australia is now suffering infections rates far higher than elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, and some epidemiologists in the country predict that the worst is yet to come.

On Thursday, the government cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa to pacify public anger over the decision to give the world tennis number one a medical exemption from vaccination to play at the Australian Open.

Authorities have relaxed testing requirements and have shortened the quarantine period for asymptomatic close contacts after concerns essential services might become overrun.

To ease the pressure on businesses, the New South Wales (NSW) government urged firms to avoid asking staff, who might have been exposed to the virus, to get themselves tested if they do not exhibit any symptoms.

“They should not be required to get a test,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet told radio station 2GB on Thursday. “This will take time for a change in behavior because … over the last two years we’ve been saying (everyone) to go and get tested.”

About 50% of truck drivers are isolated due to COVID protocols, putting Australia’s supply chain under “significant pressure”, the transport workers union said on Wednesday.

Amid reports of empty shelves in some supermarkets, Coles Group reintroduced temporary purchase limits for some meat products “to help manage demand for key grocery items.” Rival Woolworths said there were delays with stock deliveries but ruled out any restrictions now.

  • Reuters