COVID-19: How India is turning to social media to save lives during latest surge

Families, friends and even hospitals in India are issuing desperate pleas for help on social media, as the country struggles to cope with COVID-19. 

Appeals for hospital beds, oxygen and plasma are flooding Twitter, as well as Facebook, Instagram and private messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.

“Need a bed for my COVID+ father,” one woman in Delhi posted to Twitter. “His oxygen has dropped to 79/80. Any leads will be appreciated.”

This outpouring of requests comes as India confirmed 16 million cases so far, second only to the United States, in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.

The country is reporting record-high numbers of confirmed cases.

People are sharing personal information – such as phone numbers – in their posts in a bid to get leads on available oxygen or beds as rapidly as possible.

The large amount of people seeking help on Twitter alone has prompted some to try to organise efforts to help.

Hashtags including #COVIDEmergency and #COVIDSOS are being used to earmark pleas for assistance. Tips for using Twitter – such as how to filter information for posts near you – are also being shared widely.

To keep on-going requests visible, posters are being encourage to delete their appeals once they have been able to find help.

But not all appeals end in success.

Sweta Dash, a local researcher, has been sharing a number of requests. This included an appeal on behalf of a 23-year-old woman who was 25 weeks pregnant and needed an ICU bed with ventilator.

Ms Dash later tweeted: “To everyone retweeting and/or responding to this query, thank you for trying. She did not make it through. She passed away in LNJP. It was too late.”

Medical staff and hospitals have also been posting asking for more supplies.

Some are issuing notices to advise that they have no beds available in a bid to stop queues forming outside hospital gates.

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