Pandemic lessons

March 6, 2021 0 By Team FM

Till We Win: India’s Fight Against the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, Dr Gagandeep Kang and Dr Randeep Guleria
Penguin Books Pages: 308

When the gigantic waves of the COVID-19 pandemic finally hit Indian shores, the country faced a challenge that most people deemed too formidable for a developing nation with a staggering 1.4 billion population. To make matters worse, India was also saddled with a poorly equipped healthcare delivery infrastructure that suffered from historic neglect.

Yet, India dealt with the pandemic in its own way. Notwithstanding the grim projections, the country reported COVID-19 cases and deaths far below initial estimates.

The results are partly indicative of the many successful interventions made by the country. But more important is to understand what made the difference, given that the pandemic is far from over. It is still a long way from being over; in fact, we are still at an early stage of the human experience with SARS-coronavirus, according to the book “Till We Win” — India’s Fight Against the COVID-19 Pandemic, authored by Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, Dr Gagandeep Kang and Dr Randeep Guleria.

Across four sections and 11 chapters, the book narrates the story of India’s fight against the all-encompassing pandemic.

Looking at the long-drawn battle against the pandemic, the authors point out that the fight has been as much about positive developments as it has been about mega challenges. For example, more people today are following and adhering to non-pharmacological interventions. Millions of frontline workers have demonstrated that contact tracing can be done in India. COVID-19 testing capacity has increased, and the country today conducts more than a million COVID-19 tests every day. India has also created an overall capacity of nearly 1.7 million COVID-19 beds across all states, repurposing existing facilities or adding new ones. The country has stepped up research and development for COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and other therapies. Several vaccines targeting SARS-CoV-2 are currently under various stages of development. Legal status has been given to teleconsultation and home delivery of medicines to ensure the availability of health services.

If such a well coordinated and concerted action could handle the pandemic virus, why can’t we use the same learnings to counter India’s other vexing problems of dengue, chikungunya and other infections? If we can trace so many contacts for COVID-19 cases, can’t we adopt a similar approach to trace and treat tuberculosis (TB) cases in India, wonder the authors.

Barely a year old, the pandemic has already changed everything, including the way we live our lives. Healthcare has suddenly been drawn to the centre stage from India’s policy backbenches. The record hike in healthcare spend in the country’s 2021-22 annual budget is a telling example. Clearly, healthcare is the topmost agenda today as the country and the entire mankind shifts to a new normal.

The book also offers a few valuable tips to the common man on how to cope with a world ravaged by a pandemic which really has no parallel in human history.

Understanding what made a difference and what else we could have done is important both for today and for the future, emphasise the authors. Any response to a pandemic is expected to have hits and misses. While each hit or success needs to be celebrated and credited, the misses should be used for learning. In fact, our biggest failure would be not learning from this experience, they point out.