Ashes: Crowds at full capacity expected for Boxing Day Test despite Omicron threat

Despite the grave threat of the Omicron strain of Covid-19, Victoria’s acting premier James Merlino said on Tuesday that the Ashes Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) will have audiences allowed up to full capacity – around 90,000 – (December 21).

All visitors, however, have been told to behave in a Covid-appropriate manner, not least since Melbourne has been recording over 1500 cases every day. With the MCG Test likely to be the country’s largest mass gathering since the virus began, any slackness would understandably compound the disaster.

On Wednesday, Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive Stuart Fox revealed that based on ticket sales thus far, he expects a crowd of around 70,000. The Guardian quoted Fox as saying, “Given the sales to date, we’re expecting 70,000. For Boxing Day, we’ve got the stadium ready, a lot of protocols in place, and we can’t wait to welcome people back to cricket,” he said. “There’s been a lot of build-ups, and we’re just itching to get started.”

“Checks for vaccination certificates at the gate, QR codes on admission and at some eateries in the Members Reserve, cashless systems at bars and restaurants, and no entry for children under 12 unless accompanied by a vaccinated adult,” according to the Guardian story.

“We’re all used to wearing masks,” Fox said. “We’d advise everyone to bring a mask at this point, and we’d encourage you to wear it when you’re in congested locations.”

While the return of crowds to full capacity is a positive indication in the middle of the pandemic’s doom, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has advised people to apply common sense while also strongly advising mask-wearing and strict adherence to the rules.

The head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Nancy Baxter, stated that in the current situation, it would be better to avoid an event of the magnitude of the Boxing Day Test, but that if it does go through, the attendees must let their guard down.

“If they go forward, masks should be worn,” Baxter advised. “No one is personally liable in the event of a pandemic.” Skin cancer was used as an analogy by Scott Morrison. Your risk of skin cancer is unaffected by my usage of sunscreen. Your chances of catching Covid are harmed if I wear a mask. It’s been a long day, and people will eat and drink, so even those who are wearing masks will remove them. People will scream at one other and breathe each other’s air. If it’s crucial for Melbourne residents, if we want a safe event that everyone can enjoy, we probably shouldn’t hold it, but we should definitely wear masks.”

After victories in Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia leads the five-match series 2-0. Following Melbourne, the caravan will travel to Sydney for the New Year’s Test on January 5 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, followed by the series finale in Hobart on January 14.