As more than half the Australian population were experiencing total lockdowns across the nation this winter, our collective Aussie attention was drawn to the Euro 2020 soccer tournament (yes, it was still called that just like Tokyo Olympics are still known as the 2020 Summer Olympics) and the semi-finals and final played in front of a packed crowd at London’s Wembley Stadium. Due to its enormously high vaccine rates, the United Kingdom was already celebrating its own ‘Freedom Day’, where global pandemic restrictions could be eased and life was returning to normal.
Here in Australia, we’re still some way off that mark. However, according to data modelled by Kenneth Tsang, a leading Data Innovation Engineer, Australia is on schedule to get up to a 60 per cent adult vaccination result by October and even increase that to 80 per cent by the time the Melbourne Cup comes around for the first Tuesday in November. The target on the Melbourne Cup to potentially kick a summer of frolicking without restrictions in the sun is enticing to many, not least the online sports betting industry where full-scale Melbourne Cup Betting would provide a much-needed boost to an industry that has been plagued by sporting shutdowns, and bereft of its usual income due to cancelled and rescheduled sporting events. Only recently, the sports betting industry suffered yet another setback with the postponement of the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix and MotoGP races util 2022.
The data has given the betting industry and society in general great reason for optimism. Imagine taking your kids to visit their friends and family interstate, going to a packed MCG Boxing Day Ashes Cricket Test or enjoying a simple barbeque by the beach for Christmas Day without the need for your mask or to check-in with a QR code. Those simple pleasures that we once took for granted would no doubt would be relished with a new unbridled fervour.
Will we really make it to ‘Freedom Day’ by Melbourne Cup Day?
While right now it might seem unlikely that Australia will make it Freedom Day by the first Tuesday in November, so too, it seemed unlikely 3 months ago that Europeans would zipping across their continent, crossing borders by planes, trains and automobiles to enjoy Euro 2020 soccer matches or to lounge by the sea sipping Aperol Spritzers in Croatia, Italy, Spain or Greece. What got the Europeans to where they are now are their much-vaunted EU digital vaccine passports and the accompanying high vaccination rates.
What gives us cause for optimism in Australia is our history of being good vaccinators (for example, child vaccination rates are way over 90%). Following the recent Sydney outbreaks, the long queues at vaccination centres are the best evidence that Aussies are keen to return to normal as quickly as humanly possible.
Aussies will need to vaccinate to celebrate Freedom Day
However, will Kenneth Tsang’s much-anticipated Melbourne Cup Freedom Day hold up? The enemy is vaccine supply.
Having a bet on the Melbourne Cup on course at Flemington as part of a 120 000 strong crowd on November 2 will be contingent on the vaccine supply, and the public getting onboard quickly rather than hesitating.
However, one leading expert doubts Australia going to make it to Freedom Day by the first Tuesday of November.
University of Melbourne Research Fellow in the Department of Physics, Dr Christopher Billington, said in all likelihood it will be later than November;
“I think it’s very unlikely we’ll be at the 80 per cent line by then, but the rate of doses should be quite high by then and (it) feel like a home stretch,” Dr Billington said.
Despite Aussies being known for their rebellious larrakin streak, the fact is that since the global pandemic began, we have been among the most orderly and successfully locked down nations on earth. However, how good are we at queueing up in at mass vaccination hubs in order to get the country open in time for the Melbourne Cup and celebrate our own ‘Freedom Day’ in true Aussie spirit by having a few crisp champagnes and punting on some of the best race horses in the land? Well, we are set to find over the coming months.
If we can’t be inspired by the prospect of the colour of a full crowd at Flemington Racecourse and the fashions of the Melbourne Cup Field on a perfect Melbourne spring day, we may not find ourselves ready nor psychologically equipped to celebrate our Aussie ‘Freedom Day’ anyway.