Covid-19 Reviews

‘Till We Win: India’s Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic’ review: How to fight a terror virus

It is often said of documentation, to underline the importance of that task, that if you do not record it, it never happened. While that might not strictly be true in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, painstaking documentation of the country’s journey through its rather unexpected, unprecedented battle with a single-strand RNA virus is a welcome move for the future. Indeed, every country has its own battle, but Till We Win is a valiant attempt to chronicle those very crucial early months of the pandemic.

It is also valiant, because the authors are scientists who seldom write in medias res, they are more used to waiting for the results of a trial to be assessed and present a picture that attempts to be as accurate as possible. As far as we can see, the pandemic is still around, waving in and out of countries and communities, and every day, new understanding emerges and old theories are categorically busted. But then, as we have already acknowledged, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

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Addressing gaps

The book, a reasonably-priced publication, was a brainchild of Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, public policy and health systems expert, and has certainly benefitted from the involvement of two key personnel in India’s responses — Dr. Gagandeep Kang, renowned vaccine researcher and virologist, and Dr. Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. The authors state that this is a fast-evolving story, early on disabusing notions that the book intends to be the last word on COVID. It touches on all key aspects of the crisis, including the nature of viruses, the corona virus family, a timeline, the country’s state of unpreparedness, upgradation of health infrastructure, health systems and funding, treatment protocols that constantly evolved, raises and answers questions about quarantine, safety protocols, vaccines, based on scientific prudence at that point of time, hoping to address the gaps in communication that exist despite the carpet bombing of information on COVID.

Interestingly, it also touches upon the massive migrant crisis that shook India due to the lockdown, the significant social economic implications. The story of the pandemic is also the story of the people who went through those tough times, as well, whether they were migrants or frontline workers and doctors treating COVID-19 or patients, or even people who lost incomes during the lockdown. Its chapter on heroes without capes gives the book a heart, a rare but welcome addition in what could be called a self-help book in COVID times.

Invaluable primer

Deep insights into what was happening in crucial pockets such as Dharavi, Kerala, and Delhi and the exemplification of what worked well during the pandemic are crucial as documentary evidence. As an epidemiologist friend struck by epiphany, remarked: “This is everything we were taught in epidemiology, and a rare chance to implement it all.” Clearly, we are not yet free of COVID-19 and by now, having steeled ourselves to witness the fulfilment of prophecies of future epidemics, these lessons from the past are invaluable. In fact each State government would do well to consider commissioning such texts for itself. As the book itself enunciates, “assessment of a fight against an enemy has to be context dependent”. Indeed, what better tool to prepare us for the future than what we did in the past.

Till We Win: India’s Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic; Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, Dr. Gagandeep Kang, Dr. Randeep Guleria, Penguin Books, ₹299.

ramya.kannan@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 5:13:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/till-we-win-indias-fight-against-the-covid-19-pandemic-review-how-to-fight-a-terror-virus/article34333406.ece

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