Supermarkets to pilot new Vic iso policy

·2-min read

Victoria has eased COVID-19 isolation protocols for supermarkets as some stores struggle to operate due to staff shortages amid the state's worsening outbreak.

A revised contact management protocol will begin across the supermarket industry from Saturday, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The isolation protocol change will be piloted in supermarkets and distribution centres, with the view to rolling it out in other critical industries in coming weeks.

"The new framework balances the risk of transmission against the risk of interrupting food supply," the health department said in a statement on Friday evening.

It is unclear how the supermarket contact tracing policy differs from the previous protocol, with no further details shared.

Earlier, Premier Daniel Andrews revealed the state government had met with industry representatives and flagged the policy shift.

Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have been agitating for change as thousands of their staff have been forced into isolation, leading to some stores cutting operating hours or temporarily closing.

Woolworths has welcomed the pilot program.

"The changes will go a long way in enabling us to safely maintain essential supply and service to the Victoria community," a spokesperson said in a statement to AAP.

There are currently more than 1000 Woolworths workers in Victoria in isolation and more than 25,000 instances of its team members being pinged over the past three months.

None have tested positive.

Coles chief operating officer Matt Swindells has also called for national consistency across all states and territories ahead of lockdowns lifting.

"We have demonstrated that supermarkets are a safe place to shop and a safe place to work," he told the Nine Network on Thursday.

"At the same time, we're seeing a ramp-up in vaccination rates in our workforce. People are going to get vaccinated. The risk is diminishing. But the response is no longer proportionate."

Dozens of Woolworths, Coles and IGA stores are among more than 600 exposure sites across Victoria.

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