Just when you think you’ve heard the most ridiculous Covid fear-porn you could imagine, along comes some attention-grabber, shrieking, “Hold my mask!” Add a good dash of identity politics, and you’ve got a made-for-NZ-MSM headline.

Delta could be as deadly as the Spanish Flu!

Not only that, the virus is apparently some kind of White Supremacist super-bug, too.

A leading Maori health researcher says there is now a real risk that the spread of Covid within the Maori community could have devastating consequences if many continue to stay unvaccinated.

And if more positive cases start to show up around the country – particularly in places with a high population of Maori – the situation could be as bad as the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, he said.

Dr Rawiri Taonui said evidence showed that the Delta strain of the virus had spread at a much higher rate among Maori after Auckland dropped to alert level 3 just over two weeks ago […] For Maori, the chances of being hospitalised after getting Covid-19 are “probably more than 100 times more likely than a fully vaccinated person”.

Now why would that be? Is this some sort of wicked, racist plot? Or something else that doesn’t make for a catchy sound-grab?

But I digress. The doctor is at least right on one thing: a community with notably poorer levels of general health and a significantly higher rate of obesity would certainly be well advised to be vaccinated in order to minimise their risk of hospitalisation from Covid. Yet Maori have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

At some point it has to be asked: whose responsibility is it?

But the big story here is that it “could be as bad as the Spanish influenza pandemic“. Really?

In October 1918, a more deadly wave of the new influenza strain arrived in New Zealand. In just two months – by the end of the year – about 9000 people had died from the virus that had also struck down millions of people around the world.

A New Zealand passenger and cargo ship, the Talune, would later take the Spanish flu from here to Samoa; when sick passengers were allowed onto shore without going into quarantine.

About 8500 people in the island nation – just over a fifth of the population – were wiped out as a result.

NZ Herald

Those are astonishing numbers. New Zealand’s population (including the Cook Islands) in 1918 was 1,162,022. Today, it’s 4,872,549. To even come close to the death toll of 1918, covid would have to wipe out nearly 36,000 New Zealanders. Hospitalisations would have to nudge 3 million.

That’s just a raw population adjustment that doesn’t take into account modern medicine. In 1918, there was practically nothing which could be done for the Spanish Flu’s victims. Today, there is a range of treatments for Covid-19. Covid kills roughly 0.03% of the people it infects: the Spanish Flu was roughly 100 to 300 times deadlier.

More importantly, Covid almost exclusively kills the very, very old and/or very, very sick. Spanish Flu mostly killed the young and healthy.

Delta is a worry. Covid’s impact on a community with notably high rates of co-morbidities is a matter of great concern.

But anyone who compares covid to the Spanish Flu has dealt themselves out of the adult conversation.

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Could COVID Really Be as Bad as the Spanish Flu?

Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...