(Image: AAP/James Gourley)

Panic over Omicron came swiftly. Mass media jumped on to reports of a new variant of the COVID-19 with more than 50 mutations circulating in South Africa. Next came an increase in cases in the country, followed by news it had spread to the UK and parts of Europe. 

Governments acted quickly, closing borders to southern African countries and, in Australia, delaying the re-entry of visa holders by two weeks. 

Living through two years of a global pandemic takes its toll, increasing anxiety and making people more reactive to bad news. While we still don’t know enough about Omicron to assess its impact on vaccines and transmissibility, we do know the world has been primed to descend into panic.