Former Prime Minister Billy Hughes has officially been recognised for his world-class management of the Spanish Flu epidemic.

Hughes served as the 7th Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923. He is best known for leading the country during World War I, but is also remembered fondly for the big decisions he had to make during the outbreak of the deadly Spanish Flu – which killed more people than the war itself.

The extraordinarily virulent virus first arrived with American troops during the war and came in waves. It infected 2 million Australians in a population of about 5 million. In Sydney alone, 40% of residents caught it.

Billy Hughes acted fast upon the out break – despite not being on the ground, due to international diplomatic duties which were much more important than a trip to Cornwall to see your ancestors favourite pub – or a holiday to Hawaii.

His imposition of a strict maritime quarantine in late 1918 and early 1919 helped slow the spread and was decisive in producing a lower rate of infection.

“The dislocation of interstate traffic is quite unavoidable,” commented the Tamworth Daily Observer on January 31 1919, “as naturally the clean States could not be expected to continue communications with the infected.”

But the authorities were ultimately unable to provide a uniform response as the crisis worsened.

It was then that Hughes introduced a makeshift hotel quarantine system, where he would hoard overseas arrivals in luxury accomodation with shared air vents, guarded by contractors who were scared of getting immunised.

The Prime Minister was martyred by the biased newspapers for his ability to prop up the entire hotel sector without having to shell out to build any Federal Quarantine centres – as was his responsibility according to the constitution.

The country largely eliminated the virus, often going weeks without a locally acquired infection. But a series of isolated local cases all from hotel quarantine leaks – did cause alarm.

Multiple cities entered snap lockdowns on the back of such infections, aiming to halt outbreaks at their source – it was terrible for local businesses and left many begging why the fuck the PM was so committed to this bizarre hotel programme.

However, at the end of the day, Hughes’ legacy remained in tact after he was able to create a fictional government body known as ‘The National Cabinet’ which gave him the opportunity to shift any blame for his bungled quarantine programmes onto the state leaders.

The end.


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