In the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland, people with ‘essential occupations’ in producing or transporting food no longer need to self-isolate if they have been in close contact with a corona patient, test negative themselves and have no symptoms. They can just go to work. This is necessary, too, because supermarkets have empty shelves and factories have to shut down production due to lack of staff (The Guardian, 1.1).
In Australia too, infection rates and hospital admissions are rising rapidly as a result of the omikron wave. At the end of last month, this forced the federal government to adjust the rules for ‘close contacts’ – which must be self-isolated. Being in a domestic context for four hours with a person who tests positive for Covid-19 became the new norm for self-isolation. At this point, the federal government would like to adopt measures from the states to prevent supply chains in the country from shutting down and food shortages from growing.
The appeal to come and work mainly applies to employees in agriculture, food logistics, transport and food processing sectors. Those who come to work must wear a mask, take a rapid test every day, come to work by their own transport and be vaccinated.
In the United States, US President Joe Biden faces a similar problem, on an even larger scale. “There are not enough job seekers or goods to meet national demand,” said The Independent (1.2). In his first year as president, Biden has presented strong economic growth and an all-time low unemployment rate of 3.9%.
Despite this, Americans are unprecedentedly pessimistic about their economy. Shortages of cars, bath towels and cereals leave consumers grumbling. Companies cannot fill the 10.6 million vacancies they are facing. Prices of almost everything are rising. Inflation is skyrocketing and will probably rise to 7.1% in 2022 this year, while incomes are unlikely to rise as fast. The Republicans see it as an ideal stick to beat the Democratic president with.
The White House is fully committed to stimulating the supply factor, both for labor and goods. “We have very strong demand in this economy, and we have limited supply,” said Jared Bernstein, White House economic adviser. “There are two ways to deal with that imbalance. You can tackle the demand side and essentially make people poorer so they don’t have the resources to do what they want. Or you can try to expand the supply side — that’s what we are doing.”
Biden does this by having container ships dock more quickly so that trucks with full trailers can hit the road faster. A portion of the $1 trillion budget to upgrade infrastructure is available to update ports, increase truck drivers and increase domestic production of computer chips. According to the White House, the number of shipping containers waiting longer than 9 days in ports has already fallen by 39% and retail inventories are on the rise.
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Biden boosts economy against inflation and shortages – Australia scraps self-isolation for workers in crucial food chain – Foodlog