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11May

Preventable by Devi Sridhar review – a resolutely global view of Covid

One of the best-known public intellectuals of the pandemic gives her account of two years that shook the world

Professor Nabila Sadiq was only 38 when she died of Covid-19. Unable to find a hospital bed in her native India, which had been overwhelmed by the virulent new Delta variant, her heart-rending Twitter messages pleading for help were picked up around the world. The story clearly hit home with the Scottish public health expert Professor Devi Sridhar, who is around the age Sadiq was and whose family are of Indian heritage. As she writes poignantly in her new book: “She would have lived had she been in Scotland, like me”.

Accidents of geography are arguably a key theme of Sridhar’s book, an ambitiously wide-ranging study of a global pandemic with the emphasis firmly on the global. As she points out, individuals’ fates were too often determined by where they happened to have been born: living through the pandemic in Vietnam or Kerala was not like living through it in Britain. The refreshing twist in her tale, however, is that often it was countries from whom we are not used to taking public health lessons that got it right while a complacent west messed up.

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