CANBERRA, AAP – A major business group is urging Australia’s governments not to panic over the emergence of a new coronavirus variant and stifle the economic recovery from the recent round of state lockdowns.
The national cabinet will convene on Monday or Tuesday to discuss the latest variant, Omicron, which has already found its way into Australia with three cases suspected in NSW.
But Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott does not want to see an over-reaction to the new strain.
“The worst thing we can do is panic,” Ms Westacott told Melbourne’s 3AW radio on Monday.
“The worst thing we can do is stall the economic momentum, particularly for small business.”
She said small business has just been through hell with the economy “stopping and starting” due to lockdowns.
Ms Westacott said Australia has had enough experience handling the virus without needing state-wide lockdowns and border closures, and a more uniform, targeted approach should be taken if needed.
“And, for God’s sake, can we have the same rules across each state?” she added.
Infectious diseases expert Peter Collignon said fear of the new variant was “out of proportion to the data at the moment”.
Australian shares look set for a sharp markdown at Monday’s opening after a steep global market sell-off on Friday on fears that Omicron will dent the economic recovery.
Economic figures due this week will show the impact of the Delta variant of the virus on Australia, which resulted in half the population being in lockdown.
Wednesday’s national accounts for the September quarter are forecast to show the economy contracted by 2.5 per cent.
Economists will finalise their predictions after a spread of quarterly figures over the next two days.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release its business indicators report for the quarter on Monday, which are expected to show company profits rising by three per cent and business inventories unchanged from the June quarter.
The ABS will release international trade and government spending figures on Tuesday.