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'Worst thing' Australia can do is panic over mutant variant Omicron major business group warns

A major business group is urging Australia's governments not to panic over the emergence of a new coronavirus variant and risk plunging the economy back into another debilitating lockdown.

The national cabinet - a combination of federal and state leaders - will convene on Monday or Tuesday to discuss what policy changes are required to exclude and contain the Omicron variant.

Three cases have already found their way into New South Wales, brought by arrivals who carried Omicron from its source in southern Africa. 

But Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott does not want to see an over-reaction to the new strain.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott (pictured) has said the worst thing Australians can do is panic over new Omicron variant scare

'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 had just been through hell with the economy 'stopping and starting' due to lockdowns.

Economy experts are urging Aussies to keep shopping to avoid another downturn in next financial quarter (stock image)

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'.

Anecdotal evidence from medics in southern Africa is that Omicron is even more contagious than the now common Delta strain but that symptoms were milder. 

There were fears that Australian shares would fall sharply after a steep global market sell-off on Friday due to concern that Omicron will dent worldwide economic recovery.

However the ASX200 was down only 0.4 per cent in Monday morning trade. 

Infectious disease expert has advised that fear of the new variant is 'out of proportion to the data at the moment' (stock image)

Economic figures due this week will show the impact of the Delta variant of the virus on Australia, which resulted in half the national population being in lockdown.

Wednesday's national accounts for the September quarter are forecast to show the economy contracted by 2.5 per cent.

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.