SYDNEY — Australia has ruled out allowing teens as young as 16 to drive forklifts to address a shortage of workers in supply chains hit by COVID-19 as Australia struggles to collect the millions of home testing kits needed to keep businesses running.
A sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks has left hundreds of thousands of workers on the bench due to illness or the need to isolate, leading states to quickly lower isolation requirements to seven days.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put forward a proposal to lower the minimum age for forklift drivers from 18 to 16 in a bid to address the labor shortage currently plaguing the economy. Earlier this week, he waived visa fees for international tourists and students wishing to work and study in Australia.
But most states consider forklift work a high-risk job that requires a license available only to those over 18, and after meeting with state premiers Thursday, Morrison said the proposal didn’t work.
“Today we had a good discussion and we collectively believe that this is not what we should be doing now,” Morrison said at a press conference.
The National Cabinet has agreed to consider recognizing New Zealand truck driver licenses to fill the gap in the sector.
Morrison’s Liberal-Nationalist coalition government is seeking ways to loosen rules in Australia’s transport and food sectors to alleviate supply chain and workforce disruptions that have led to empty supermarket shelves.
The problem is exacerbated by a widespread shortage of rapid antigen tests (RATs), limiting workers’ ability to test themselves, a concern for voters ahead of elections expected in May.
The Therapeutic Goods Authority of Australia (TGA) on Thursday provisionally approved a COVID-19 vaccine from Novavax Inc. and two oral medications for vulnerable patients.