A frequent refrain I hear goes something like this, "However, we also need get back to 'normal' so we can live our lives to the full, without suffering from fear and anxiety induced by the popular press and without unnecessary, unproven, authoritarian government restrictions and confusing, everchanging rules."
What shape is this normal life going to take? Because one thing is certain, life will never go back to the way it was pre-pandemic.
Stepping back in time, people who had leprosy were isolated in communities until better methods of treatment were discovered. Isolation was the method used to prevent other people in the population from becoming infected. The same methods were used in the treatment of Tuberculosis.
Ships that arrived on Australian shores, would raise flags if there were unexplained illnesses on board and both Sydney Heads and the Heads of Port Phillip Bay had quarantine stations where people with illnesses were isolated until they either got better or died.
Melbourne had its own infectious diseases hospital Fairfield until it was deemed to be unnecessary and it was closed. The Hospital specialises in looking after people with a multitude of infectious diseases, including hepatitis, tuberculosis, typhoid and cholera just to name a few.
Typhoid Mary, who was an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella typhi. Her refusal to isolate and to continue to work infected an estimated 122 people with 3 confirmed deaths and an unconfirmed estimate of up to 50 people.
At the end of the First World War, returning soldiers introduced the Spanish Flu into Australia, causing more than 12,000 deaths. The current annual mortality rate from influenza pre-covid is about 3,000 people per annum. "The population of Australia in 1914 was 4,948,990 and the current official population is 23,135,281". Data shows that the measure instigated to prevent the spread of the Covid virus also was extremely effective in decreasing the spread of the influenza virus as was reflected in the lower mortality rate in the years of strict infection control measures.
With the Covid virus, no one has a crystal ball to peer into the future, however going on past data, this virus has shown a remarkable ability to mutate and to do it quickly and for that mutation to spread like wildfire.
The polio epidemic infected thousands of children leaving many with life long consequences, it is estimated that there were 400,000 childhood survivors some were reliant on the iron lung in order to live, spending their lives in Fairfield's respirator ward.
"Houses were fumigated, people quarantined, and entire families ostracised. Desperately worried parents resorted to hanging pungent camphor around their children's necks in a misguided effort to ward off the virus and some fled to the mountains to escape. "
Right at the beginning of this pandemic, mistakes were made, and incompetence reared its head. But more importantly, decisions were modified and adapted rapidly to suit a changing landscape. Policy on the run, yes, but to sit back and do nothing would have had its own unknown consequences.
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