It was the biggest short-lived panic of all time. I pointedly don't listen to morning radio; particularly the crybaby shock jock, the oracle of timid men, the un-pied piper of the craven, the timid choirmaster of catastrophists.
But there he was, or at least his voice, coming out of a radio perched behind the counter of some shop I'd had to visit, talking up the chances of catastrophe via a new virus mutation, and frightening what life was left in his fabric-masked listeners cowering behind the ironed curtains of their fortress homes. It was just after 9am, Monday morning.
I waited. The shop was busy. Now the voice on the shelf behind the counter, treble unaccountably amplified so you could hear every sibilant letter, had one of those pop psychologists on air, who was explaining in carefully enunciated syllables the importance of, when there is bad news, breathing slowly, not jumping to catastrophic conclusions, and being thankful for what you had. Small mercies in bad times. Brown paper bags to breathe into. Curl up on the floor. It was the kind of lecture designed to make you think the world was about to end, were you to switch on the radio mid-program. But ... no jumping to catastrophic conclusions? Isn't that what they had just done? And this is Melbourne's top-rating radio station. Explains a few things. I walked out of the shop.
By 11am, the news - on another station - was announcing that Omicron appeared not as lethal as previous strains. Another twenty-four hours later, The Australian newspaper reported that some doctors had even advised that it might be beneficial for Omicron to spread ... and burn out naturally. I think that's what happened in 1919. But I'm no doctor.
Columnist Rita Panahi in today's Herald Sun:
In the media, and among the dial-a-quote experts, the reaction to the latest Covid-19 strain has been bordering on the demented.