Coronavirus: Staffing shortages affecting supply chains

Omicron’s rapid spread is causing staffing shortages in many sectors across the country, hindering supply chains as COVID-19 infections rise among workers.

From city services to transportation and grocery stores, the impact of the Omicron variant is hitting certain industries hard.

In Quebec, hundreds of police officers and paramedics have been sidelined due to infections.

“We have never had so much paramedics absent at the same time, so we really see the spike with Omicron,” said Benoit Garneau, spokesperson for Urgences-Sante, the ambulance service for Montreal and Laval.

While urgent 9-1-1 calls can still expect paramedics to arrive on the scene quickly, others with less urgent matters are asked to be patient.

In Toronto, officials are drafting a contingency plan to maintain essential services as infections among workers continue to climb.

“We are planning for worst-case scenarios, up to and including illness rates of 50 to 60 per cent, so that we have made plans for that possible scenario,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.

Officials in British Columbia have advised companies, schools and health-care sites to follow suit, warning that up to one-third of staff could be out sick amid this wave of the pandemic.

The virus-related staffing shortages come as many sectors of the Canadian economy were already struggling to fill jobs.

“Even before the latest variant, Canada had an all-time high, a million job vacancies in the third quarter across the country,” economist Trevin Stratton told CTV National News.

In addition, the staffing shortages have now begun to impact certain supply chains.

Poultry supplier Exceldor says the shortage has forced it to give thousands of chickens to other processors and it will have to euthanize thousands more.

To help ease these supply chain woes and bolster staff, some provinces are reducing quarantine periods for fully vaccinated Canadians who test positive for COVID-19.

Quebec became the latest province to do so Tuesday, cutting the isolation period to five days for fully vaccinated residents, allowing them to return to work more quickly.

Sylvain Charlebois of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab says this change may help keep essential businesses running, and ensure plenty of food and supplies remain on store shelves.

“Some policy makers are willing to take some risks, some calculated risks in order to ensure food supply continues to operate to make sure Canada remains food secure,” Charlebois said in an interview with CTV National News.

However, if supply chains continue to hit roadblocks, experts warn prices at the grocery store could rise even further and more services could suffer.

They say this all hinges on how long Omicron remains a public health concern.

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