a patient in India received oxygen in an ambulance

A patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) receives oxygen inside an ambulance after she was evacuated from the Vijay Vallabh hospital, which caught fire in Virar, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, April 23, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas. Story from the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

Story from the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

As India’s daily coronavirus cases set global records, people desperately searching for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders are finding help on social media. But for others like Ruby Yadav, who has never heard of Twitter, time and hope is running out.

Traveling by rickshaw, Yadav and her mother — who is seriously ill with COVID-19 — have been turned away by nearly a dozen public hospitals in the northern city of Lucknow this week as the country’s health system crumbles.

“I’m losing hope. We know what will happen next, but I can’t bear to watch my mother collapse like this,” Yadav, 21, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Thursday.

India reported more than 300,000 coronavirus cases within 24 hours on Thursday, marking the world’s highest daily tally and taking the country’s total cases to nearly 16 million.

Shortages of ambulances, hospital beds, drugs and oxygen supplies are crippling healthcare in much of the country of 1.3 billion, prompting people to post appeals on Twitter in a desperate bid to get help for seriously ill loved ones.

People in need and those with information or resources are sharing telephone numbers of volunteers, vendors who have oxygen cylinders or drugs, and details of which medical facility can take patients using hashtags like #COVIDSOS.

Many people are creating Twitter accounts to seek help from those in positions of power, officials manning helpline numbers said, but hundreds of millions of mainly poorer Indians do not have access to a smartphone or use social media.

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