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Australians are being warned of an inbound meat shortage if workers in the meat industry aren't given priority access to rapid antigen tests (RATs).
The industry says it's getting close to emergency staff levels as more and more are forced to isolate due to getting coronavirus or being a close contact.
On top of issues at the factor level, there are also issues with retailers who are struggling with staffing shortages and supply chain problems.
This has resulted in supermarket shelves being wiped clean of meat while people stockpile due to Covid-1 isolation.
"We do expect the supply chain issues will continue for at least 12 months," Retailers Association' spokesperson Fleur Brown told 7News.
"However, they are critical at the moment. They will ease a little as we get over the Omicron curve."
The Meat Industry Council has said facilities want to be able to rapid test workers on a daily basis to reduce the number of outbreaks and delay caused by isolation.
CEO Patrick Hutchinson told 7News the issues had reached an emergency level.
"We're now seeing a large amount of meat workers who actually can't get to work," he said.
"There's hundreds and hundreds of staff up and down the eastern seaboard, certainly QLD, NSW and VIC who aren't able to get to work at this stage."
The transport industry has also called for priority access to RATs, with the number of available truck drivers also dropping, which is causing issues across all industries.
Hutchinson said the concern is that a large portion of meat workers live together so when one is forced to isolate it can take out entire households.
"I'm actually concerned we will have a shortage because we just won't have the people on site over the next month to six weeks to be able to process anything," he said.
He also explained how it won't just be the meat industry that is impacted and he's predicted massive shortage across all retail.
The government has put rules in place to stop price gouging on rapid tests and to limit the number of tests people can purchase.
But the country is already in a significant shortage as RATs replace PCR tests as the preferred option.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has promised more than 100 million rapid tests will come into the country over the next two months.
84 million rapid tests have been ordered by states and territories which will be available in the next few weeks.
Hunt said the government was unable to make the tests free to residents as it wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand to provide unlimited tests.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said it had discussions with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in September last year to warn him something needed to be done about supply issues around rapid tests.
AMA vice-president Chris Moy told Guardian Australia nothing was done to prepare the private market for the massive surge in tests that were required following the outbreak of the Omicron variant.
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