Victorians face fresh shortages of red meat, chicken, fish and even KFC across the state with new workplace shutdowns and restrictions to be announced today to hit the state’s abattoirs, fish markets and call centres.
Call centres will be shut down unless operating for emergency services after a coronavirus outbreak in a Centrelink call centre last month.
Abattoirs will not be completely closed, but their operations will be affected under tough new workplace rules for essential workers.
As anxious shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of meat and chicken on Sunday despite pleas not to panic buy, Victorian government sources also confirmed the new restrictions are likely to impact on supply chains.
Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open under the new restrictions but some other retail outlets are likely to face reduced operating hours to be detailed this afternoon.
Restaurants will remain open for takeaway food and some delivery services.
A draft document outlining proposed Victorian business shutdowns obtained by The Australian Financial Review today states that construction sites, manufacturing plants and car dealerships will be closed under the new rules.
The list has been thrashed out during a crisis meeting of Victorian cabinet today with some businesses moving into different columns as talks continued.
Federal government sources told news.com.au there were some last minute attempts to ensure that construction remains open in some form with stricter workplace safety rules.
Earlier, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warned Victoria needed to be careful that it didn’t shutdown essential services.
“They need to bear in mind the balancing act,’’ he told Sunrise.
“They have to ensure that those essential services are going to continue to be provided, like our energy supply and manufacturing and construction and also to ensure that we can stem the tide of these cases by following these roles with these strict new restrictions in place.”
News.com.au understands that the Victoria’s Industry department is running projections on the impact of the changes to be announced today on supply chains for red meat, poultry and fish.
Ministers in the Victorian government remain in crisis meetings this morning over the details of the changes to be announced by the Premier Daniel Andrews this afternoon.
And Victoria’s crisis council of cabinet, which was established to combat coronavirus, is right now meeting to discuss the impact of new restrictions.
Health authorities are expected to announce 429 new infections in Victoria today. More than 11,500 cases have already been confirmed in the state.
Woolworths has already reintroduced purchase limits in Victorian stores on at least 50 products including meat, fish and dairy products.
A two packet limit per customer remains in force for frozen Vegetables, frozen potatoes, frozen fruit, fish, poultry, prepacked sausages from the meat department, prepacked burger patties, rissoles and meatballs from the meat department.
Eggs, flour, rice, sugar, hand sanitiser, long life milk, mince and paper towels also remain restricted.
Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters urged shoppers to remain calm and not panic buy.
“We understand this is an anxious time for our Victorian customers, but we encourage everyone to continue shopping as they usually would and only buy what they need,’’ she said on Sunday.
“Stock will continue to flow from our distribution centres and as an essential service, Woolworths supermarkets remain open to support customers’ food and grocery needs.
“We ask that our customers continue to adhere to our social distancing and hygiene measures while in store and continue to treat our team and each other with respect while shopping.”
Over the weekend, Kentucky Fried Chicken confirmed that the shutdowns in Victoria had already forced some stores to limit opening hours.
“Our chicken supply has been disrupted in Victoria this week and some of our restaurants will only be open for limited hours or may have to close this weekend,” a KFC Australia spokesman said.
“We’re sorry for any issues this causes our customers – we’re doing everything we can to help our suppliers get back on track.”
Abattoirs have proved a site of major COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria as they have been around the world.
Cedar Meats, the source of a previous outbreak led to more than 100 infections confirmed last week that another worker had tested positive forcing the workplace back into isolation.
Mr Andrews flagged on Sunday that he would outline the tough, new restrictions on workplaces today in a move that could force businesses to stand down thousands of workers for up to six weeks.
“These are not easy decisions to make,” he said.
“That’s why we are taking a bit more time to make sure we have full visibility and understanding of what the impacts of those decisions would be, not just on workers and the business, but on those who rely on the goods.”
The Premier indicated businesses would be divided into three categories on which he would provide more detail this afternoon: those that are operating “business as usual” and will face “no impact”, those with reduced output, and a third category of businesses that would have no choice but to close.
“They’ll close and move exclusively to work from home, and if they can’t work from home the work simply won’t be done,” he said.
The extreme lockdown announced on Sunday already prohibits Melbourne residents venturing further than 5km radius from home even for supermarket supplies or medicine.
For the first time in Victorian history a curfew has been slapped on all residents of the Melbourne Metropolitan region between 8pm-5am with the only exemptions allowed to travel for work or medical treatment.
Only one person is allowed outside to buy food and essentials each day although there will be some exemptions for small children in the care of an adult who cannot be left at home with another adult.
Ubers and taxis are still allowed to operate but Victorians must wear a mask inside the vehicle and must sit in the back seat to comply with social distancing requirements.
Recreational activities have been banned and the only exercise allowed is for one hour a day and within a 5km radius of the family home.
Childcare centres are closed for families unless they qualify as essential workers and schools have returned to remote learning.