Covid-freedom day and its meaning for the HoReCa

After 106 days of lockdown, the Australian government has declared the 11th of October the (Covid-19) Freedom Day and allowed all vaccinated visitors to return to restaurants, pubs and other businesses in the capital, Sydney. But at the same time, New South Wales state Premier Dominic Perrottet warned that the coming months would be challenging. What are the implications for the on-trade channel not only in Australia, but the world as a whole?

A symbol of changing times

A total of 74% of the population of New South Wales is already fully vaccinated. The people are massively supporting the reopening of the economy after many months of lockdowns that hit the country much harder than, for example, European countries. Especially during the summer months.

Needless to say, the governments of Australia and New Zealand, until recently, strongly promoted the zero-covid strategy. They were first seen as a role model for the fight against the pandemic but later lagged behind the vaccination campaign.

Their citizens endured harsh lockdowns even in times when the rest of the world was on its path to reopening. Europe and the USA (in general) abandoned the zero-covid approach a long time ago. Especially after the delta variant's spread, which even hard lockdowns have not helped contain.

Now, even the Australian government admits the situation is changing with the current availability of vaccines against the disease. Politicians and many in Europe have been of a similar mind for some time, being concerned more about the health system's capacity to handle newly infected patients rather than eradicating the disease altogether.

In other words, it is a symbolic act. One that may encourage others to adopt a similar approach and convince more people that the on-trade channel may be poised for a massive, and most importantly, permanent comeback.

Dining with the virus

Covid-19 eradication is considered a utopia even by many epidemiologists who predict that the virus will stay with us and we will have to learn to live with it.

For example, according to a German health ministry statement from late summer, the nation is unlikely to face restrictions similar to 2020 or early 2021. Madrid got rid of most pandemic restrictions last month, and Italy opened its cultural venues for a full capacity operation today, with most of the country being considered a low-risk area.

Most countries now focus on vaccination campaigns and utilize border checks or mask mandates and social distancing rules.

This effectively means that the on-trade channel will most likely be in a much better position this year than the last. The biggest obstacle will be to draw the hesitant and cautious people back in, navigate the government and health-related rules, be prepared for sudden changes and deal with the continuing trend of food deliveries instead of eating in.

But all in all, it seems we are on the right track.

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