10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia
Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Hello, once more.

Workforce shortages caused by the Omicron wave continue to challenge industry and government. Here’s the sharp end of the spear: The Age reports that as many as seven in 10 Victorian triple zero calls are not answered on time over certain shifts. An inquiry investigating call response times was launched in December, but sources told the paper the issue has been exacerbated by a spike in COVID-related calls and a large number of staff members forced to isolate after viral exposure.

Those disruptions have reached The Colonel. Poultry production giant Inghams said on Tuesday that staff shortages, linked to COVID-19 exposure and isolation periods, forced the company to suspend the delivery of some products. That includes select deliveries to KFC outlets across the country. Some outlets are “unable to offer our full menu”, a spokesperson told the Australian Financial Review. One market observer speculated Inghams could lose $100 million in sales this quarter alone, but the firm said it’s too early to draw conclusions.

Looking to the skies for a moment: Virgin has had to cancel one in four flights as a result of labour shortages and waning demand. Qantas said it hasn’t had to make major cancellations yet, but Jetstar has had to manage disruptions. As in the food industry, airlines are watching the federal government for signs that isolation rules will be amended to allow asymptomatic workers back on the job.

Isolation rules covering some hospital and supermarket workers have already been eased, leading the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to call for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Workers feel like they have been left to fend for themselves, sick people are hunting down non-existent tests, are waiting in long lines or have given up because they cannot afford the exorbitant prices,” said ACTU secretary Sally McManus.

The workers selling those rapid antigen test (RAT) kits are copping it, too. In a statement, the industry body Professional Pharmacists Australia said the federal government’s undersupply of RATs was compromising the health and safety of pharmacy workers and the general public. “Because of the undersupply of tests and testing options, pharmacists are being inundated with calls for tests and are also expected to dispense medications, administer vaccinations and provide other health services,” said Jill McCabe, the organisation’s chief executive. “It simply isn’t safe.”

An Australian RAT distributor has suggested shortages could linger until late March as a result of high demand and a limited supply of base components. “With the nasal test, the swab that’s used for the nasal test, there is only a pool of that,” said Shida Kebriti, managing director of Sydney-based Eczanes Pharmaceuticals. “And with everyone virtually pulling out of that and putting pressure on that supply chain, the raw material, there is only a certain amount that’s available.”

Consumer confidence took a smaller-than-expected tumble of 2.2% in December, new ANZ-Roy Morgan figures show. But early spending data for January shows most of the Australian economy’s post-Delta gains will be swiftly reversed as those supply chain woes and self-imposed lockdowns dampen activity. Christmas spending data “may prove short-lived,” said Indeed economist Callam Pickering, given the “growing evidence that spending softened towards the end of December and into January in response to the growing threat of Omicron.”

A quick Novak Djokovic update. The world number one men’s tennis player continues to train in Melbourne ahead of what could be his tenth Australian Open tournament victory, but Immigration Minister Alex Hawke retains the ministerial power to scratch Djokovic’s visa. The stoush has already drawn international attention to Australia’s handling of unvaccinated arrivals (and the refugees who briefly shared their immigration detention site with the player), and Hawke’s decision is likely to intensify that focus.

Some US game developers are lashing out at one promise of the ‘metaverse’ — that in-game objects can be shared between titles. “Once again, you cannot take a ‘skin’ from one game, drop it into another, and expect good results — even if they were made in the same engine,” Riot Games’ principal engineer Jules Glegg said. A bit of a downer for those wanting to port Master Chief into “Monopoly” for the Nintendo Switch.

Want to hand your life savings over to the hivemind of Reddit community r/WallStreetBets? Instead of digging in to the specifics of their latest moonshot predictions, have a look at this top 10 list of their most-discussed equities instead.

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You may have seen your friends posting a bevy of coloured squares and comments about something called “Wordle”. This, from the A.V. Club, explains what’s going on and how some folks are trying to make a quick buck from the word game craze.