Digital platforms emerge as lifelines for people as Covid cases spike

NEW DELHI: With Covid cases touching new highs, digital platforms – right from Twitter to Tinder – have become lifelines for people looking for hospital beds, medicines and oxygen for the patients.
A total of 2,95,041 fresh infections were registered in a span of 24 hours, while the active cases crossed the 21-lakh mark with a record 2,023 daily fatalities, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Wednesday.
“My grandmother needs oxygen machine (5L). She’s aged 80. Location: Kalyan, Mumbai. Have tried all numbers that I have seen here, still not able to get,” read a tweet.
Another one urged people for leads on finding a hospital bed in Noida.
Social media timelines on platforms like Twitter and Facebook are filled with desperate requests by family members and friends of patients for hospital beds and medicines. These posts have been reshared to amplify the reach to a larger audience.
While social media platforms had played a significant role last year too amid the lockdown, the situation is grim this year.
The unprecedented surge in cases has placed tremendous strain on healthcare services and resources across India, and hospitals are running short of beds and medicines.
Interestingly, a Twitter user, Sohini Chattopadhyay narrated how a plasma match was found for a friend through a dating app Tinder. Chattopadhyay went on to add, “Dating app 1, govt 0”.
While there are calls for help, others are also proactively sharing information on various social media platforms.
Social media posts and WhatsApp messages are aplenty with collated lists of hospitals with available beds, names and phone numbers of distributors of medicines like Remdesivir (used in the treatment of Covid) and even food delivery services for Covid patients.
Various actors and social media influencers are also updating their accounts with details of Covid-19 resources. Some people have gone the extra mile to verify the information, which is often crowdsourced, to benefit the masses.
Misinformation has been a major challenge for social media platforms in the past. Tech giants Google, Facebook and Twitter have been stepping up efforts to curb misinformation around Covid-19 on their platform.
Facebook, for example, is working with independent third-party fact-checking entities, covering many Indian languages, to identify misinformation around Covid-19.
It had also launched a Coronavirus Information Centre to provide the latest news and updates from MyGov Corona Hub, ministry of health & family welfare (MoHFW) and global health organisations.