I’m grateful to former UK ambassador and all-round top man, Craig Murray, for reminding me about the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968/9.
“Reminding” is probably too strong a word. Despite being 12 at the time, and probably catching it like 30% of the country, I have no memories of the outbreak other than a general awareness of knowing the phrase ‘Hong Kong Flu’ since then.
Nobody I knew died. If I’d known 700 people, the pandemic might have claimed at least one of them. 80,000 people – or one in 685 of the then UK population – are thought to have died from Hong Kong Flu.
In China as of mid-afternoon on 8 March, coronavirus had killed 3,101 people. That’s one in 450,000 of the country’s population.
The outbreak in China isn’t over yet, of course, though it appears to be dying down, with the number of existing confirmed cases falling and recoveries rising.
All the same, Hong Kong Flu in Britain in 1968/69 was relatively speaking 650 times more deadly than coronavirus has so far proved to be in China – let alone in Britain to-date.
And yet almost no-one is talking about Hong Kong Flu today.
No-one who was alive at the time remembers wearing a mask or the country going into meltdown.
Because it didn’t.
So why the complete hysterics over coronavirus?
I don’t think even the journalists feeding the hysteria have any idea themselves.
(Footnote: I couldn’t find original sources for this PA graphic claiming 80,000 UK deaths from Hong Kong Flu. UK national statistics don’t show a noticeable spike in deaths in ’68/9 but instead a subsequent four-year increase in mortality rates that may have been attributed to long term flu effects).