Union Steam Ship Company freighter Talune spread the 1918/19 influenza pandemic through the Pacific islands. 20031005
OPINION: There will be stories told about the time of ‘the coronavirus’ for decades to come; just as there were about the flu pandemic which spread around the world in 1918-19, infecting an estimated 500 million people – a third of the world population at the time.
The flu killed an estimated 50 million people, much more than the Great War of 1914-18.
War-weary soldiers glad to be alive and heading back to their loved ones, unfortunately took the flu home with them.
Decades later in the 1950s and 60s I remember my elders talking about the flu and the people who died. It was hard to conceive the impact and the numbers of people sick and dying, until Covid-19 began its rampage; even though so far at least, the fatalities are nowhere near those of 100 years ago.
We’ll be telling our mokopuna and they will tell their children about the lockdown and restrictions of 2020. While we haven’t had the numbers of deaths that came with ‘the flu’, it is still tragic for whanau who have lost loved ones.
There are warnings that the end might not yet be in sight. The great flu came in three waves, a small first wave brought by soldiers who came home early from the war, which was given new life when the bulk of the soldiers arrived home at the end of 1918, and then another in 1919.
The Union Steam Ship Company freighter Talune took it to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in 1918, with devastating effect – but isolation slowed the spread so the flu did not reach Niue, for instance, until 1921.
As we battle Covid-19, personal hygiene – washing hands and surfaces, trying not to touch our faces, sneezing coughing into a tissue or our elbows, maintaining at least two metres separation, particularly from people who are coughing and sneezing – should all be maintained.
Stay home, as much as you can, and stay safe.
The world has changed. What was normal five weeks ago may never be normal again. We are already doing things differently: working from home, accepting only a few people going into a shop at a time, not automatically shaking hands, hugging or kissing people, greatly reduced mate and wedding numbers.
There will be other things to get used to, like contactless shopping. We may end up wearing masks and gloves for a time – something already a way of life overseas in places like Asia.
I have friends and colleagues who have been counting down the days when they can get their favourite takeaways again. In my own case, there is one restriction in particular I hope will lift shortly.
It’s been nearly two months since I had a haircut and I’m starting to look like shrek the sheep.
Having a contactless haircut is going to be pretty challenging, and although I’ve seen examples of people giving themselves a haircut – one with sheep shears – I think I’ll wait a little longer.