New South Wales shutting out Victoria due to a fresh coronavirus outbreak is not the first time a global pandemic has separated the states.
The Spanish Flu ravaged Australia in 1919, leaving 15,000 dead within a year of the first case in January, while killing 50 to 100million people worldwide.
Australia’s population stood at about five million at the time, and more than a third of all Australians were infected. Indigenous communities were hit particularly hard by the virus, which had a 50 per cent mortality rate among Aboriginal people.
The NSW-Victoria border was closed to slow the spread of the Spanish Flu – and will be shut again at 11.59pm on Tuesday as Victoria fights to control its second wave of the coronavirus.
The Spanish Flu ravaged Australia in 1919, leaving 15,000 dead within a year of the first case in January, while killing 50 to 100million people worldwide Pictured: Inoculation at a special depot in Sydney’s Hyde Park at the height of the epidemic
Makeshift hospitals, much like the one pictured above at the Royal Exhibition building in Melbourne in 1919, were set up nationwide throughout the Spanish Flu pandemic
State border closures during the 1918 influenza pandemic created chaos along state lines, with many Australians left stranded, much like the 200 people pictured above at Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens on February 4, 1919
The pandemic was so severe a third of all Australians were infected at some point. South Australian residents, who had been visiting in Victoria when the borders between the two states closed, were sent to a quarantine camp at the Jubilee Oval
A butcher placing a basket of food on a post at border footbridge for Coolangatta residents unable to cross the border into Tweed Heads during the 1919 flu epidemic
Measures put in place to control the Spanish Flu included mask wearing, large public gathering cancellations and school and border closures.
Hospitals were overwhelmed as a result of the virus tearing through Australian communities, much like the pandemic today.
In an analysis comparing the coronavirus and Spanish Flu pandemics for the University of Sydney in May, Department of History affiliate and medical historian Dr Peter Hobbins said there were ‘striking parallels between 2020 and 1919’.
‘During both pandemics, Australians were asked to abandon their normal lives to control the impact of the disease,’ he said.
‘Since there was no vaccine and no cure, we had to rely on quarantine, supportive medical care and the goodwill of the community.
‘Then, as now, those measures drastically affected people’s jobs, family lives, worship and entertainment options.’
A group of men and women, including nurses, eating melon at the Jubilee Oval quarantine camp in 1919. Fresh fruit and supplies was supplied by outsiders through to the Post Office on site
The former Jubilee Oval adjacent the Torrens River in the CBD catered for up to 640 people, with full-time catering staff, guards, nurses and doctors deployed to help
The impact is similar with Australian life today, with unemployment rising to 927,600 people by the end of May due to the coronavirus, according to the latest data by the ABS.
Other measures put in place during the Spanish Flu pandemic included camps set up to quarantine interstate travellers returning home when borders closed.
Several hundred Australians were stuck in Victoria after its border with South Australia closed in 1919 and transported via guarded trains back home to Adelaide before being quarantined at the former Jubilee Oval adjacent t the Torrens River in the CBD, ABC News reported.
There were about 100 military tents on side, with some equipped with bedding, lighting, water, shower baths, a telephone and post office.
The site housed up to 640 people who had been visiting Victoria, with full-time catering staff, guards, nurses and doctors deployed to help.
People are pictured arriving at the quarantine camp at Wallangarra in Queensland during the influenza epidemic of 1919
Women being marched to Rainbow Bay’s quarantine camp during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1919
‘The daily routine was soon well established — bath, breakfast, thermometer drill for women, committee meetings for the few, spraying of tents and removal of dust-bins,’ one camp resident said at the time.
Writing and poetry competitions were also established to keep campers entertained, and friends and family would send fresh fruit and other supplies through the post office.
‘Adelaide was thinking that we were a terrible plague spot, the abode of a sort of human swine-fever,’ the authors of Normal, a book written by the [Jubilee Oval] Camp Publication Committee wrote.
‘We suspected that if the truth were known, the attack on the gates would come from the outside as thousands of citizens endeavoured to get in to share our good fortune.’
An isolation hospital was set up at the Jubilee Exhibition Building, just north of the quarantine camp.
A total of 540 South Australians died as a result of Spanish Flu – none of them campers at Jubilee Oval.
A number of other camps were located nationwide including at Rainbow Bay and Wallangarra in Queensland, and at North Head in NSW.
A meeting held on the footbridge across the border of indignant townspeople from both sides of the border of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. It was about the closure of the border during the flu epidemic of 1919
Rows of shoes on the Macintyre River Bridge at Goondiwindi, near the Queensland-NSW border, in 1919. This was the result of restrictions hampering interstate trade
Spanish Flu symptoms were very similar to those of COVID-19 – patients would experience a shortness of breath and their lungs would fill with fluid.
The major difference between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 is the early-1900s disease mainly affected healthy young adults more than children, the elderly or those with weak immune systems.
Sufferers would also experience typical flu symptoms including a sore throat, headache and fever.
Other symptoms, not seen with COVID-19, included pregnancy miscarriages among women, teeth and hair loss, mouth and nosebleeds, dizziness, insomnia, blurred vision, delirium, among others.
Australia has been at a standstill for a number of months, and lives and routines are only just starting to return to normality as state-by-state restrictions ease.
The only state going backwards in terms of improvement is Victoria – recording 191 new cases of COVID-19 since Monday. The state’s total now sits at 2824.
Of the new cases, 37 are linked to outbreaks and 154 are under investigation.
Tuesday’s NSW-Victoria border closure follows the Australian Capital Territory closing its border with Victoria at 11.59pm on Monday.
Two crowded marquees thought to be at the influenza quarantine camp set up on Jubilee Oval, Adelaide, during the epidemic in 1919
Spanish Flu symptoms were very similar to those of COVID-19 – patients would experience a shortness of breath and their lungs would fill with fluid. Pictured: rubbish collection at Jubilee Oval’s quarantine camp in 1919
THE 1918 FLU OUTBREAK – THE WORST THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN
The deadly flu virus attacked more than one-third of the world’s population, and within months had killed more than 50 million people – three times as many as World War I – and did it more quickly than any other illness in recorded history.
Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients; in contrast the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed previously healthy young adults.
Red Cross volunteers fighting against the Spanish flu epidemic in United States in 1918
To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States.
However, newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in Spain, creating a false impression of Spain as being especially hard hit – and leading to the pandemic’s nickname Spanish flu.
The close quarters and massive troop movements of World War I hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation, researchers believe.
The global mortality rate from the 1918/1919 pandemic is not known, but an estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected died, with estimates of the total number of deaths ranging from 50-100 million people.