The so-called ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic that gripped Australia in 1919 foreshadowed the COVID-19 crisis in several important respects. For a start, during both pandemics, Australian federalism more or less collapsed.
Spanish Flu appeared overseas in the spring of 1918. The disease manifested an unusual W-shaped mortality rate, carrying off healthy adults rather than the young or the old.20 In late 1918, before influenza reached Australia, the Commonwealth and the states formulated a national plan. The federal government would exclude the virus through quarantining ships; the states would notify Canberra of possible infections so that the Commonwealth could coordinate the closure of internal borders.21
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