As Omicron continues to spread with the Delta variant still hanging around, many Australian businesses have to shut their doors due to staff shortages, often not knowing when they can reopen.

Even though there is no lockdown at the moment, the infectiousness of the new COVID-19 variant is sending shivers through retail, hospitality and other industries mainly in the food and farming and necessities sectors.

Meanwhile, the imposed domestic and international border policies seriously affect supply and transport of goods across Australia.

Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, Jim Sarris, Bendigo Bank general manager for business banking urged the federal government to swiftly review said rules, stressing that omicron’s spread had taken many by surprise.

“What we’re seeing today is that this latest wave has unfolded differently to what any business had forecast,” Mr Sarris said.

“It’s still very early to say if there would be an impact but definitely the situation as it unfolds is something that we’re always watching. Close watch is where we’ve been for the last couple of years and where we still are.”

Drawing on the significant staff shortages that currently plague bigger and small businesses in the country and especially Melbourne and Sydney as they have been more seriously challenged by the lockdowns and spread, Mr Sarris argues that it is paramount the government plans for the year ahead.

“Do you start off with students and then work your way through? Businesses are saying that the government should maybe tell us the plan so that they can work through because at the moment they’re really struggling to see how they get through the next 12 months with all the stopping and starting,” Mr Sarris said.

“When a bunch of your staff all test positive and all have to isolate and the rapid antigen tests aren’t readily accessible, it is proving quite challenging for businesses,” he noted, adding that “the government should ensure the price of rapid antigen tests is capped”.

Keeping close communication with his customers, Mr Sarris can attest firsthand that hospitality and retail have really struggled through this period.

“…Some of them have clearly opted to close temporarily or reduce their hours or reduce the options they’re putting out to market,” Mr Sarris said.

“My anecdotal evidence suggests 50 per cent are experiencing labour shortages as a result of COVID-19 at the moment.”

“What we’re seeing today is that this latest wave has unfolded differently to what any business had forecast,” he explains highlighting that the difficulty of keeping up to date with all the changing requirements for staff is adding to the crisis.

“From the lens of a customer I spoke to the other day that’s got a national business, they’re struggling to keep up with the different approach in each state,” Mr Sarris said, asking for consistency and efficacy from the Morrison administration.

“You’ve really got to stay on top of it and every state is quite different. For businesses that are operating at a national level the ability to stay on top of every detail is quite challenging.”