As COVID continues to challenge us in 2022 here is a fascinating story from The Conversation USA about the intersection of politics, society and pandemics in the 1918 influenza pandemic. It describes some of the reactions to public health orders such as:

Theater and dance hall owners complain about their financial losses; Clergy bemoan church closures while offices, factories and in some cases even saloons are allowed to remain open”; Officials argue whether children are safer in classrooms or at home ; Many citizens refuse to don face masks while in public, some complaining that they’re uncomfortable and others arguing that the government has no right to infringe on their civil liberties.”

It then describes how Governments encouraged “personal responsibility”. It failed to stop the 3rd and 4th influenza waves in 1919 and 1920.

It all sounds depressingly familiar, and highlights that some things never change! “If we have anything to learn from the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic, as well as our experience thus far with COVID-19, it is that a premature return to pre-pandemic life risks more cases and more deaths.”

However, we are now in a much better position technologically, with our increased understanding of virology, vaccination and treatment. Let us hope that this will end the pandemic sooner, but in the meantime get vaccinated and keep up the masks if you can!