Coles has slapped purchase limits on a host of household basics – including carrots, butter and baked beans – as Victoria’s COVID-19 outbreak hits supermarkets.
At least six staff at Coles’ enormous distribution centre in Melbourne’s west have tested positive for the virus as Victoria’s cases have leapt by more than 400 in just over a fortnight.
On Thursday, the supermarket giant said other workers at its Laverton centre who had been identified as close contacts of the infected staff had been forced into self-isolation. All of the warehouse’s staff were being tested for the coronavirus.
The measures have strained the company’s ability to get goods into its supermarkets.
“While the Laverton distribution centre has been able to maintain operations, the reduced number of available team members has temporarily impacted our ability to replenish our Victorian stores with chilled and fresh produce lines,” Coles said.
To meet the shortfall, the company is bringing in stock from interstate, using pop-up centres in Victoria and working with suppliers to deliver goods directly to supermarkets.
It has also imposed two-pack purchase limits on a host of staples – from chicken thighs to packed carrots and baked beans – at its outlets in Victoria and Tasmania, as well as Lavington, Albury and Deniliquin in NSW.
Thursday’s limits are on top of the return of restrictions on purchases of toilet paper, pasta and a host of other staples introduced by Coles and rival Woolworths last week. They came after both companies reported a return to the panic buying seen in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.
Coles said it had extensive safety protocols in place at the Laverton centre, which had been deep-cleaned daily in the past week.
The Victorian government is also working with the company to ensure the centre remains open and food can be kept on supermarket shelves.
“Our team is working hard with our suppliers to replenish our stores as soon as possible,” the company said.
“We apologise to customers of our Victorian and NSW border stores who may find some chilled and fresh produce lines are temporarily out of stock.”