Woolies lashed for supplier’s virus policy

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Woolworths has been lashed by a union for turning a “blind eye” to one of its main suppliers forcing COVID-19 positive employees to keep working alongside their virus-free colleagues.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil called on the supermarket giant to take action before Teys Australia workers sign in to its South Australian abattoir, where they have been directed to wear coloured hairnets to indicate their COVID-19 infection status, on Monday.

“Woolworths is turning a blind eye to the exploitation of workers by a major food supplier in the supermarket’s supply chain … who are forcing workers to continue turning up for work even though they are infected,” Ms O’Neil said in a statement.

This comes as Australia’s three largest states continue to be ravaged by the Omicron outbreak.

NSW on Saturday recorded almost 50,000 new COVID-19 cases and a further 20 deaths, leading the state government to extend its rental relief scheme for small businesses.

The scheme has been extended for two months to March 13.

Victoria also extended its rent relief program for struggling businesses as it recorded 25,526 new COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths.

The scheme has been extended to March 15.

Meanwhile, Queensland on Saturday recorded another 19,709 virus cases and six deaths, including one person in their 20s who had underlying health concerns.

The state also had an almost 10 per cent spike in the number of people in hospital with COVID-19.

This figure jumped from 589 on Thursday to 649 at 7pm on Friday, while there are currently 46 people in intensive care and 14 on ventilators.

“We’re at the start of what is really our first big wave in Queensland,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath told reporters.

Tasmania on Saturday reported 1139 new coronavirus cases, as overall active infection numbers in the state drop for a third straight day, while South Australia reported 4349 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths.

Under the SA government’s modelling, released on Friday, daily cases are expected to reach between 6000 and 10,000 when the outbreak reaches its peak, predicted for between January 15 and 25.

Meanwhile Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Saturday the nation had reached a 95 per cent first-dose vaccination rate against the virus for those aged 16 and older.

He said the milestone surpassed “almost all possible predictions that were made at the outset of the pandemic”.

“That is often referred to as a full vaccination level but we want to go further, we want to continue to encourage Australians to come forward,” Mr Hunt told reporters.

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