Contributed by Glen Davis
Considering the far-reaching impact of the Covid 19 crisis it doesn’t hurt to wind our minds back to the last time we encountered a pandemic of this nature.
The Spanish Flu pandemic arrived in Australia after the end of World War 1. It’s estimated over 13,000 Australians died in this crisis. These were part of an estimated 50 million people who died globally, as around a third of the world’s population was infected.
A series of governmental errors allowed the disease to rapidly take hold in Australia, with disastrous consequences. There were various attempts to restrict/control the spread of this. Some were more successful than others. One tried, though not always proven method, was the wearing of masks.
As a public health measure their benefit brought divided responses. There were those supportive of masks as a way of reducing the spread of the disease. Others, however, saw them as providing little more than a futile breeding ground for infection.
Even among proponents of using masks there were at times, disputes over the various designs. The type of mask deemed most suitable often became a cause for debate, about what mask(s) were most appropriate for various settings.
For one aspect there appears to be have been consensus; to move beyond a basic cloth/hanky over the face. Generally, masks proved popular with many people wearing them, as they considered them a form of protection.
As always, in times of crisis there were those enterprising types able to find a way
to make money from peoples’ suffering. Many masks were produced using gauze and muslin. The Commonwealth Government eventually declared gauze and muslin as necessary commodities.
In mid-March, during the Covid 19 crisis, the Victorian Chief Health Officer warned of the limitations of relying on masks as a safeguard. They play a role if you’re unwell and you need to be out and about.
But if you’re well, they’re not a great use of a resource in high demand. Masks for frontline health workers are vital, for the rest of the community.