Spanish flu was the biggest pandemic of the 20th century which killed millions of people and changed the entire outlook of people towards life.
The Indian government has decided to study the Spanish flu of 1918 to get insights about the situation back then and implement the cause and effect relationship right now. If we look at the situation, COVID-19 is not the first virus that we have experienced as a country. The best parallel that can be drawn is with the Spanish flu. This pandemic occurred about a century ago and there are various important lessons that can be learned from it.
The Spanish flu started right after the First World War in Europe. It was also a respiratory disease and it was spreading like the coronavirus. It lasted for about two years and affected 500 million people from all over the globe. This was a third of the world’s population at that time. It killed 12 million people in India and at that time the British were ruling our country. This virus was caused by the H1N1 virus. This is also responsible for the swine flu pandemic.
After the First World War, to keep everyone spirits high, and to portray a bright image of the country, countries such as the US, UK, and Germany under-reported their Spanish flu cases. It spread mostly during the summers. In India, this does it did not affect the upper-class people and the British people much. The rest of the country was in tatters because of a shortage of food and water. It is said that there was a shortage of wood for cremation.
The death rate skyrocketed in two months. This virus even affected the strongest of the people and not just the weak ones. The rapid spread of this disease was because of a lack of hospitals and an unhygienic environment. Our country was a mess at that time. There were dead bodies in the rivers because there was no space for cremating them. This actually lead to a lot of disappointment for the Indians towards the British.
Now when the whole situation regarding Spanish flu was analyzed, it was understood that countries that had imposed only measures had a less death rate. This is why Indians had an early lockdown. It also showed that removal of the restrictions at only time can also be deadly. In India, the lockdown4 is into effect but there are various relaxations. The government aims to create a vaccine so that this disease can be cured fastly but till that time social distancing and isolation is the way to move ahead.
During the Spanish flu, India lost about 6% of its population. More women died than men. Leaders of India were lucky to recover from this flu. When we look at the situation of coronavirus, the death rate is under control right now but it can skyrocket if you don’t take appropriate measures. During the Spanish flu, France opened up the economy because the head of the country thought that they have recovered from the flu, but that was not the case. Another wave hit the country and killed many people.
One more thing that the government is understood from 1918 is that overcrowding of places must be avoided. Wrong information regarding the disease must not be passed.
During that time, the wealthy and the rich came forward to help the poor in need. Even right now, the windy people are making donations so that the poor can be said. Civilians play a key role in limiting the spread of the virus.
Just like the Spanish flu, there is no medicine available for COVID-19. The first vaccine for flu was developed in 1940. This was the way after the Spanish flu had killed a third of the world’s population. It is said that the world won’t be like what it was a century ago, there has been a lot of development in the mindset of people and people are educated now.
Covid-19 pandemic has made us understand the vulnerability of the existing health care systems and infrastructure of all the countries all over the world.
After the Spanish flu, the world health organisation came into effect. The league of Nations founded THE health organization and that later became the world health organization.
At this point in time, the whole world is against the world health organization. It has come under severe criticism and is said to be corrupt.
The Spanish flu disrupted the whole world, caused many people to lose their families. But when we look at coronavirus, the death rate does not seem to be that huge right now so the severity of the situation cannot be determined till the time there a proper estimate is there about the same.
The higher authority in Delhi at that time said that there was not a single time of the day when dead bodies were not carried outside the city to be cremated.
The human resource development minister has shown his desire that the university should study how India handled the 1918 pandemic and what measures were taken to boost the economy. This will impart knowledge and will make the citizens responsible.
Chief economic advisor, KV Subramanian is the first one to draw the attention of the Indian government with regards to the Spanish flu. He finds that there are various lessons of management that can be looked at from 1918. There are various similarities between the US economy at that time and the Indian economy right now. The amount of urban population in the United States at that time was about 45% and the amount of urban population in India right now is near 45%. Various sectors of the Indian economy are as developed as the economy of the US in 1918. There are similarities at the macro level.
When we talk about the GDP, they will be V-shaped recovery for that. Analysis for the same has to come in the future.
Till now the coronavirus has not been as bad as the Spanish flu and we hope that this remains intact. The global economy declined at that time and it is declining right now too. Governments involvement is required to control the whole nation from going into a recession like the 20th century. The Spanish flu killed people in their 20s and 30s which is actually the most productive years of any person. Because of this the growth rate in India declined a lot. People lost business and starved themselves. Unemployment for trade union members declined by a bit. The recession in 1920 was possibly because of the first world war. At the moment, just like at that time there was a war situation looming over the pandemic, the bad state of the Indian economy in 2019 is looming over the Coronavirus pandemic. There is a huge similarity in both cases. There is a push of recession coming from behind which will accumulate the current losses and lead to downfall.
People are the lifeblood of any country. We don’t want a repetition of the Spanish flu and we must say you are people. The economy will go on but the people won’t come back. During the Spanish flu, the real per capita consumption fell by 8% globally. In India the decline was for 16%. India was always vulnerable because it was being ruled over by the British. During times like now when the world’s biggest economy, the USA, has bowed down to the pandemic, we all know what the future holds.
Both the pandemics have come forward and open up our minds about the government, the higher authority, and the economy. The government needs to act up and come up with appropriate relief packages and not only for the industrial sectors. Every person counts in the country and must be looked after.