WHO has declared the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as one of concern, and unsurprisingly, people are reacting with some pretty valid anxiety. But I’m here to remind you that, so far, there’s no need to panic.

In case you haven’t been across the massive dump of COVID news these past few days, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a new strain of the virus, the Omicron variant, as one of “concern”.

You can read everything we know about Omicron here, but the gist is that this is all super new, there’s lots of speculation, and it’s looking pretty different to Delta in that it’s not spreading as fast or having more severe affects than what we are already prepared for.

There has obviously been some valid fear around the announcement, considering how much Delta derailed our lives when it decided to ravage our under-prepared nation. And under-prepared is the key word here.

When Delta hit, the majority of Australia was unvaccinated. We didn’t have a rollout plan, we didn’t have a good quarantine system (tbh, you could argue we still don’t), we didn’t have the medical infrastructure to deal with an outbreak, and if you live in NSW like me, our government took so long to respond to the threat of COVID that by the time lockdowns were introduced, it was too late.

But fast forward to now, and over 90% of Australia’s 16+ population has had their first dose of a COVID vaccine. So far, there’s no evidence to suggest our vaccines won’t hold up against Omicron. And if, in the worst case scenario, they do become obsolete against the new strain, Pfizer has already announced they can update and distribute the current vaccine within 100 days.

We’ve been living with COVID for nearly two years now, and scientists have made leaps and bounds when it comes to learning about this disease. The scientists in South Africa noticed Omicron and reported it after it was found in less than 100 cases — that is early as fuck, and goes to show what an excellent job our experts are doing.

WHO declared Omicron a variant of concern so scientists can give it the attention it needs, study it as necessary, and keep us prepared. Not so we could all lose ourselves in a panic that is so far unwarranted.

Yes, it’s scary, and we’re all rightly a little traumatised from the first few waves of COVID. But remember that we’ve come a long way since then, and we’re far more prepared than we ever have been.

As Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly put it, be “alert, but not alarmed”.

Keep washing your hands, social distancing, and stay on top of your vaccinations, if you can. Until we have more information, let’s keep calm and trust the scientists keeping us safe.