Empty shelves amid coronavirus fears (Image: AAP/James Ross)

As the New South Wales government introduced restrictions last week, a Health official claimed that nobody could have predicted the challenges created by the rise of Omicron.

But while policymakers didn't necessarily foresee the sudden emergence of a more transmissible, less virulent strain of COVID-19, some experts say we could have been better prepared to face the economic havoc created. Instead Treasury was sidelined, and inadequate attention paid to supply chain issues.

Now Australia faces a summer of record case numbers, widespread community anxiety and economic disruption. COVID infections and isolation have led to empty supermarket shelves, shuttered hospitality venues, and many people opting into their own form of "shadow lockdown".