In early and mid-October, many Dutch newspapers made for grim reading. ‘In some towns… a third of the population lies sick’, one outlet reported, while another warned rising infections meant ‘in the hospitals there is no more room to take in seriously ill patients’. In the Hague, journalists reported many nurses had fallen ill, while in Maastricht the mayor ordered cinemas to close and banned public events. In Amsterdam, where up to a third of children were reportedly ill, the Standaard newspaper reported that ‘schools seem to be the hearths [of infection]’, and warned school closures were likely. Further east, mayors warned that ‘if the illness does not abate soon… [we] will proceed to complete or partial closure of the cafes.’
That was in October 1918, during the pandemic of Spanish Flu. A hundred and three years later, many things are eerily familiar: the concerns about children spreading sickness to older relatives, the worries about healthcare being overstretched, the anger at events being cancelled.
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