They Closed the Borders ….. AGAIN!!

“Victoria-NSW border to close for the first time in 100 years as Melbourne coronavirus cases hit record daily high” – this is the headline from the SBS News report, dated 7 July 2020, and it comes as Victoria is just beginning another six weeks of lockdown to try get COVID-19 under control.

Anyway that headline intrigued me, as I was curious about the previous border closure … so I headed to Trove to see what I could find.

And what an amazing article I found. Talk about history repeating itself … just have a read of this article from South Australian newspaper, The Register, dated 3 February 1919. You can see the original article here. Please note, the red highlight is my emphasis, not that of the original article.

 —The Spanish Flu—

No one desires to minimise the horrors or the epidemic which has swept over the world, nor the necessity for precautions, but it would seem that if ever fear was worse than the disease, the present is the occasion. The Federal Quarantining Department kept the disease out of the country for months. Australia has had ample warning, and advantage from the experience of other countries.

The Commonwealth and State authorities met last November, and planned, a joint course of action. The Sydney doctors diagnosed their cases as the real thing; the Melbourne doctors were still using big words, and unable to make up their minds. Now both States have been declared infected, but New South Wales will not admit Victorian passengers, because Melbourne was responsible for the trouble, and Queensland, not to be out of the fuss, is asking the despised Commonwealth Government to lend it a body of Light Horse to patrol its border against New South Wales. Incidentally it may be recalled that the Queensland Government did nothing to help reinforce the Light Horse when they were at grips with the human enemy in Syria, Palestine, and elsewhere.

Like South Australia, the Queensland Government is certainly within its rights and within the agreement of last November in protecting itself, but it is carrying the never-dying jealousy of the two big States to extremes when they cut all passenger and goods communication between their respective infected areas, merely because “The reason why, I cannot tell. I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.”

But as for the poor public, there seems every effort to create a real scare. Sydney says that all must wear masks, and in Melbourne the picker-up of unconsidered sixpences is selling bits of useless gauze, or mosquito net, with a couple of tapes attached, like the proverbial hot cakes.

The people clamour to be vaccinated, or inoculated, with the “dope,” which may or may not cure, but which certainly makes some people feel ill. If we cover our mouths and noses with six suffocating layers of gauze and never take them off, whether to eat, or drink, or curse, or pray aloud, we are “theoretically” immune, though there are some who think we may get infection through the eyes or through the ears.

If private enterprise can do no better than this, one need not marvel that the most sincere individualist thinks nationalized medicine could not be worse. Two women doctors alone stand out in Melbourne with the simple advice—let in the fresh air, keep clean, don’t crowd, and where possible do your business through the mails, telegraphs and telephones, so as to avoid unnecessary personal contact.

One alarmist newspaper gives publicity to the questions of whether we have got enough medicine bottles, whether we have prepared to bury the dead, and feed the living. An official doctor wants us to be ready for a “huge epidemic.” There is nothing of the “silent navy” about these good folks. One could wish there were. Let them prepare, by all means, but publicity of scaresome possibilities is the best calculated means of ensuring the worst results. The Federal quarantine authorities remain moderately silent among the uproar. ls it too much to suggest that Mr. Massy Greene might signal his entry into his first real Ministerial office by preaching the doctrine of restraint and courage.


Sounding familiar? It does, doesn’t it. Sounds remarkably like news reports we’ve been hearing over the past few months.

In searching further I found that Dr Peter Hobbins, medical historian, and expert in the Spanish Flu at the Department of History at the Universty of Sydney, says that …

“there are some striking parallels between 2020 and 1919”. He says that during that time “New South Wales imposed drastic restrictions on its residents; closing schools, churches, entertainment venues and important events such as agricultural shows and victory parades.” And “for the first time in my career, I feel a real sense of what could be called ‘historical déjà vu’, in living through the COVID-19 lockdown”.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Spanish Flu and the impact it had on Australia, be sure to check out this website, as it is packed with information.

So now I have to say, this has me more intrigued than ever to find out how my ancestors coped and made it through the Spanish Flu pandemic. Health wise, job wise, social wise? Remember, they didn’t have tv, computers or social media to even keep in touch with friends. So, it’ll be interesting to learn more about it … and gives me more research to do!!

Caption for cover picture: The influenza quarantine camp set up at Jubilee Oval, Adelaide, South Australia during the epidemic of 1919 – SLSA [PRG 280/1/9/374]

One Response to “They Closed the Borders ….. AGAIN!!”

  1. Crissouli says:

    Congratulations! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

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