On October 27 1918, the Sunday Times ran an editorial titled "Flu — or what?" It was the height of "Black October", one month after the Spanish flu arrived in SA. At the time, no-one was quite sure why people were dying. It’s sobering today to read the real-time reporting in the newspapers of the day, at a time when SA is facing another global pandemic a century later.

Back then, there was no health minister explaining cases or causes, no wall-to-wall TV coverage, no Twitter. Hysteria was the order of the day. Schools closed, farmers bolted their gates shut, people boycotted the "bioscope" for fear of germs, and tea rooms closed "because there wasn’t enough trade to pay for the electric light used"...

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