Pixabay image

COLUMN

ZYTARUK: Spanish flu offers good lesson in re-opening during pandemic

Governments are under immense pressure to ease restrictions, considering their inability to control the crowd that’s already liberated itself from the ravages of common sense

homelessphoto

So let it be written…

A little more than a century ago, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 killed more than 50 million people.

So what did we learn?

They say history tends to repeat itself, witnessed by the playing out of a 100-year cycle that saw a bubonic plague in Europe in 1720, cholera smite Asia in 1820, the Spanish Flu, and of course our present-day pandemic.

George Bernard Shaw instructs us that “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

Personally, I prefer Stephen Hawking’s take on it: “We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity.”

There’s been evidence aplenty, during this our go-around, of foolhardy behaviour on our beaches, in grocery store aisles, along sidewalks, in parks, you name it. Masses of people recklessly thumbing their noses at social distancing and invading other people’s space.

Too many people simply lack the patience to stay put. They’re bored with the pandemic, are moving on, and as a result of their negligence more people will be doomed to suffer from COVID-19, and more will die.

So what happened in 1918?

People were human, that’s what.

In San Francisco, they thought they had the Spanish Flu licked. Driven, no doubt, by impatience, public pressure and economic necessity, the politicians prematurely re-opened the city for business. They celebrated its return to normality with a grand parade which resulted in the deadly flu returning with a vengeance.

Beware, the second wave.

Today there’s immense pressure on governments to ease restrictions, considering they are unable to control the crowd that’s already liberated itself from the ravages of common sense.

And when government starts talking about easing up, and returning to some semblance of normal, yet more people see that as a green light to drop their guard. People are waiting for a sign, and champing at the bit.

There’s no denying the fierce economic imperative to re-start the engine. Our catch-22 is staying healthy in the process.

Dr. Stewart Prest, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, says there seems to be a “broad understanding” in Canada that opening up too much, too quickly, could really make things worse in the long run.

That some jurisdictions have chosen to open up while the first wave is still cresting, he says, “seems terrifying, to be honest.

“I’m not an epidemiologist, I don’t know if you can fully prevent a second wave,” Prest says.

“There are important lessons from history, and I think it’s fascinating that some jurisdictions seem to be better able to take those on board than others.”

So let it be done.

READ ALSO ZYTARUK: Hey Surrey, fill your jar with precious rocks

READ ALSO ZYTARUK: Hey Surrey, time to break out a bored game

Tom Zytaruk is a staff writer with the Now-Leader. You can email him at tom.zytaruk@surrey nowleader.com.

Coronaviruszytaruk column so let it be done

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The strip mall which includes 3 Dogs Brewing on Johnston Road is the site of a proposed 23-storey development given preliminary discussion at White Rock’s Land Use and Planning Committee meeting Oct. 26. (File photo)
White Rock tower would need to provide amenities: council

A 23-storey proposal for uptown could include new city hall facilities

Ranil Prasad saw this poster near Surrey Central SkyTrain station on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. He said it expressed “some specific reference to white replacement theory.” (Photo: Ranil Prasad/@run_neil/Twitter)
Surrey man urges public to watch out for ‘white replacement theory’ posters

Ranil Prasad said he saw the messaging at a Surrey SkyTrain station

Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, wearing protective suits and working vacuumed a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Nest of ‘murder hornets’ found near South Surrey

String of traps set up along border to capture Asian giant hornets

Construction of Douglas College's Surrey Campus in 1970. (Photo: Douglas College Archives)
PHOTOS: Douglas College’s Surrey roots at a B.C.-first campus in 1970

The official date of the Douglas/Kwantlen split was April 1, 1981

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers and staff by parents must stop, Chilliwack soccer club says

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Most Read