Omicron disrupts return of students and skilled workers

The Federal Government has chosen to delay the return of international skilled workers and students until 15 December, in response to new COVID variant Omicron.

NSW and Victoria have also made the decision to reintroduce 72-hour mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals, while SA has increased their quarantine period from seven to 14 days.

Dominique Lamb, CEO National Retail Association (NRA), said while retailers need to respect the need to proceed cautiously following the arrival of Omicron, the reimposition of quarantine restrictions will deter migrant workers at a time when we have a real skills shortage.

“For perspective, prior to the pandemic Australia was receiving over 100,000 skilled migrants each year. That has left a significant hole in the labour market that desperately needs to be addressed.”

“Retailers across the country will be hoping that the revival of quarantine restrictions is only a temporary move as state and federal governments determine how big a threat the Omicron strain poses.”

Theo Foukkare, CEO Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), echoed Lamb’s sentiments that the implementation of quarantine restrictions will impact the arrival of migrant workers.

“There is no doubt that this will impact consumer confidence and further delay overseas skilled staff and students on approved visas from returning to Australia to assist in the labour shortage.

“Let’s hope the two-week pause doesn’t become three weeks, four weeks, or longer. We desperately need access to overseas labour to help accelerate our recovery.”

Foukkare also said that while the discovery of Omicron in Australia is concerning, we have been here before.

“We have learnt a lot over the last 22 months, and I urge the government to provide clarity to business with regard to the measures that may be implemented, so that we can continue to operate ‘open for business’, not half open.”

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