#COVIDSOS: Indian Twitter becomes a platform of hope amid despair | News on the coronavirus pandemic

Indians are using social media as a hotline to search for scarce oxygen cylinders, hospital beds and medicine as the virus continues to mount.

After spending hours unsuccessfully calling government helplines to find a hospital bed for a critically ill COVID-19 patient, Indian lawyer Jeevika Shiv posted an SOS request on Twitter.

“Serious # covid19 patient in #Delhi with oxygen level 62 needs an immediate hospital bed,” Shiv, a member of a 350-member COVID-19 voluntary medical support group, said on Twitter at the end of last week.

Help came quickly. The patient found a bed and quickly showed signs of healing.

“Finally, it was the online help that worked as people responded with information,” Shiv said.

India reports more than 250,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day in its worst phase of the pandemic. Hospitals are turning away patients, and oxygen and drug supplies are running out.

In response, people are bypassing conventional lines of communication and turning to Twitter for help with oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, and other needs.

People in need and those with information or resources share the phone numbers of volunteers, vendors who have oxygen cylinders or medication, and details of the medical facility that can take patients using hashtags such as #COVIDSOS.

Some users have offered to help with home-cooked meals for COVID-19 patients quarantined at home and to meet a host of other needs such as organizing pet feeding.

“Twitter needs to do what government hotlines should do,” Twitter user Karanbir Singh wrote. “We are alone.”

Twitter is not as widely used in India as Facebook or WhatsApp, but it is proving to be a more valuable tool for getting appeals for help in the coronavirus crisis, largely because of its function of ‘re- tweet ”which can quickly amplify a message through users. networks of contacts.

A Google spreadsheet compiled by a group of volunteers that pulls together information on hospital beds, oxygen supplies, blood plasma, and ambulance helplines in various states was quickly shared on Twitter and on. spans dozens of pages.

Bengaluru-based software developer Umang Galaiya, 25, has created a website that allows users to select the city name and need – whether it’s oxygen or the antiviral drug remdesivir – and then directs them to results on Twitter using its advanced search feature. .
Its website has received over 110,000 visits.

“Every other tweet on my thread is about COVID,” Galaiya said. “I’m glad people find this useful.”

But for some, help comes too late.

Journalist Sweta Dash posted a Twitter appeal for help on Monday to find a bed with a fan for a pregnant woman in New Delhi. His post quickly spread to over 100 retweets and a Delhi government official quickly suggested a hospital.

But a few hours later, Dash posted another message. “The patient is deceased”.

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