There’s a famous quote that goes something like
“those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)
In these COVID-19 days, and with the pressure from many an observer for governments to relax their lock-down measures, I think that we would do well to cast our eyes back to the 1918 – 1920* flu epidemic to see what we might find that strikes us as interesting.
* I’ve written ‘1918 – 1920’ rather than the usual shorthand of the ‘1918 epidemic’ just to point out that it lasted nearly three years! And I’d rather we did really sensible things so that it didn’t last anything like that long this time around.
I know that we live in different times and so comparisons should be done very carefully and with a good few caveats, but I suspect that many of the fundamentals remain the same (such as ease of transmission and the risk of exponential growth).
I found the Wikipedia entry on the ‘Spanish Flu’ to be an interesting read. One of the graphs within really stood out at me. It shows the mortality rate over time in the UK:
You can see that the UK endured three waves, with the second wave being extremely deadly as compared to the first (which was really bad anyway).
We can imagine that at the end of July 1918 (after the first wave) people thought they’d beaten the virus and so could go back to normal. We can also imagine that they might have thought the same in January 1919 (after the second wave).
Here’s a picture of New Zealand’s cases ‘over time’ as at 17th April 2020 (taken from the excellent ‘The Spinoff’ site):
We can look at this graph and be very encouraged by what we are seeing. However, we still have cases emerging even though we’ve been in a ‘Level 4’ lock-down for over three weeks.
Here’s the graph again, but with a really positive spin:
…and here’s the graph with an alternate ‘realism’ point of view:
If we apply the ‘three waves of Spanish Flu’ graph learning onto our current graph you can see why we should take GREAT care about when to exit a ‘Level 4’ lock-down, and how (even then) we shouldn’t let things slip.
If we go too soon and/or we relax too far, what we’ve endured to date (socially and economically) might have been all in vain.
In short: Please don’t put pressure on our government to move out of ‘Level 4’ too soon, and when we do move down to ‘Level 3’, please follow the rules so we don’t go backwards.
And to our government: Please keep on listening to the experts over politically and capitalistically motivated parties. Thank you!