Indians are using social media as a hotline to check for scarce oxygen bottles, hospital beds, and medication as the virus continues to grow.
After spending hours unsuccessfully calling the state helplines to look for a hospital bed for a seriously ill COVID-19 patient, Indian lawyer Jeevika Shiv posted an SOS request on Twitter.
“Serious # covid19 patients in #Delhi with oxygen levels 62 need a hospital bed immediately,” Shiv, part of a 350-strong COVID-19 volunteer medical support group, said on Twitter late last week.
Help came quickly. The patient found a bed and soon showed signs of recovery.
“After all, it was online help that worked when people responded with information,” Shiv said.
India reports more than 250,000 new COVID-19 cases daily in the worst of the pandemic. Hospitals refuse patients and the supply of oxygen and medication is running out.
In response, people bypass the traditional lines of communication and turn to Twitter for crowdsource help with oxygen bottles, hospital beds, and other needs.
People in need and those with information or resources will share phone numbers of volunteers, oxygen or medication providers, and details of which medical facility can accept patients using hashtags like #COVIDSOS.
Some users have offered to help with home cooked meals for COVID-19 patients who are quarantined at home and meet a variety of other needs, such as: B. the feeding of pets.
“Twitter must do what the government helpline should do,” wrote Twitter user Karanbir Singh. “We’re on our own people.”
Please avoid using hashtags #COVIDSOS and #COVIDEmergency for general COVID tweets to make it easier to identify tweets that are in urgent need of help.
– Parminder Singh (@parrysingh) April 19, 2021
Twitter is not as widespread in India as Facebook or WhatsApp, but it is proving to be a more valuable tool to ask for help in the coronavirus crisis, largely due to its “re-tweet” feature that lets users send a message can be amplified quickly. Networks of contacts.
A Google spreadsheet created by a volunteer group that gathers information about hospital beds, oxygen supplies, blood plasma, and helplines for ambulances in different states is quickly shared on Twitter and has dozens of pages.
Bengaluru-based software developer Umang Galaiya, 25, has created a website where users can select the city name and need – be it oxygen or the antiviral drug remdesivir – and then pull them up using the advanced search feature Forward Twitter.
His website has received more than 110,000 hits.
“Every second tweet on my feed was about COVID,” Galaiya said. “I’m glad people find this helpful.”
But for some, help comes too late.
On Monday, journalist Sweta Dash asked for help on Twitter to find a ventilator bed for a pregnant woman in New Delhi. Her news quickly spread in over 100 retweets and a government official from Delhi soon suggested a hospital.
A few hours later, Dash posted another message. “The patient died”.