By Tricia Mifsud
THE latest Omicron surge has led to major supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths enforcing product limits on items including toilet paper and analgesic painkillers.
Both supermarkets have enforced a two-packet limit per customer on the items, while Coles has further implemented a two-packet limit on mince, sausages, and chicken products.
Coles have also instated a six-fillet limit for chicken breast and thighs when bought from the deli department.
The limits come as mandatory isolation for close contacts have seen a further staff shortage at distribution centres, sending customers into a panic and stocking up on items in demand.
A Coles Kilmore employee said product limits had left customers angered, with many taking out their frustrations on the employees who had no control of limits or shortages.
The employee said while working through the pandemic, Coles staff had been treated poorly by customers, including being sworn at and called derogatory names.
“We mostly get at the moment things said like, ‘this is ridiculous, why don’t you keep stock out the back? I’ve got a family of six, how is two cartons of milk going to feed six’, things along those lines usually,” they said.
“We have also been sworn at and, and workers [are accused of] keeping all the stock for ourselves.
“[I’ve] been spat at and had things thrown at us because they couldn’t have the amount they wanted.”
The employee said despite the treatment, they loved their workplace, but they and other staff shouldn’t have to deal with the unacceptable behaviour.
“I still love my job and my customers and I try not to take anything personal, that way I don’t carry other people’s poor behaviour or problems,” they said.
Woolworths director of stores Jeanette Fenske said they understood it was an anxious time for all, but the stores were doing everything they could to remain open and provide an essential service.
“We will continue to closely monitor product availability across our stores, with stock continuing to be sent to stores daily. Customers will notice some gaps on shelves but we’re doing all that we can to meet demand,” she said.
“We encourage everyone to be mindful of others in the community and to continue shopping in reasonable quantities.”
As well as grocery limits, in line with guidelines from the Federal Government, when in stock, rapid antigen tests, RAT, will be limited to one pack per customer, with packs ranging from one to seven testing kits, depending on the stock available.
The State Government announced on Thursday that as of midnight tonight, emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport, and freight will join workers in the food production sector as being eligible for an exemption, which would allow them to work even if considered a close contact.
The exemption only applies if the worker is necessary for continuity of operations, and if all alternative options have been exhausted, and includes strict measures such as daily RAT testing for five days.
To find out more about current isolation requirements, visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/checklist.