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World India's young fight the pandemic with apps and oxygen

06:15  04 may  2021
06:15  04 may  2021 Source:   afp.com

Why India needs oxygen more urgently than vaccines

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India sees its darkest day of pandemic . India added more than 3,200 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday — the highest number in a single day since the pandemic began. The total death toll has surpassed 200,000, with cities running out of space to bury or cremate the dead. Hospitals in Delhi and across the country are turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds. Many have put out urgent notices saying they can't cope with the rush of patients. The Sikh temple in Ghaziabad has come to resemble the emergency ward of a hospital.

India is battling the second wave of coronavirus and facing challenges like oxygen availability, crucial medicines as cases continue to rise. Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka are among states worst affected with respect to daily new cases. Among many things that health facilities are In order to overcome the situation, the Delhi government has launched an online portal through which people from all over the world will be able to help Delhi in its fight against Corona pandemic . Under the leadership of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi government has called for helping the people of

Her exam revision done, schoolgirl Swadha Prasad gets on with her real work: finding life-saving oxygen, drugs and hospital beds for Covid-19 patients as India reels from a brutal second wave of infections.

a group of people standing in front of a building: As India's pandemic has grown ever more dystopian many have volunteered in droves to help people source critical supplies such as oxygen © INDRANIL MUKHERJEE As India's pandemic has grown ever more dystopian many have volunteered in droves to help people source critical supplies such as oxygen

As their government struggles to tackle the pandemic, young Indians have stepped into the breach, setting up apps to crowdsource aid, delivering key supplies and using social media to direct resources to people in need.

a cluttered desk: The Indian government is struggling to tackle a devastating coronavirus outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals © TAUSEEF MUSTAFA The Indian government is struggling to tackle a devastating coronavirus outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals

Prasad works with dozens of volunteers -- all aged between 14 and 19 -- as part of the youth-led organisation UNCUT, building online databases packed with information about medical resources available across the country.

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India reported 349,691 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the fourth day in a row the country has set a world record for daily infections during the coronavirus pandemic . Everything is in short supply -- intensive care unit beds, medicine, oxygen and ventilators. Bodies are piling up in morgues and crematoriums, and authorities have been forced to hold mass cremations at makeshift sites. Just six weeks ago, India ' s Health Minister declared the country was "in the endgame" of the Covid-19 pandemic .

India , meanwhile, over the weekend recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll since the pandemic began, and became the first country to register more than 400,000 new cases in a single day. media captionThe BBC's Yogita Limaye reports from a hospital in Delhi, which is running low on beds and oxygen . Dr Lahariya says the medical oxygen crisis in India was caused by a lack of planning in fixing the distribution and transportation networks. But many are shocked that two weeks after the crisis began, patients in India ' s capital are still gasping for breath, and there seems to be no

a person holding a sign: In the slums of Mumbai, Shanawaz Shaikh has provided free oxygen to thousands of people © INDRANIL MUKHERJEE In the slums of Mumbai, Shanawaz Shaikh has provided free oxygen to thousands of people

It is a 24/7 operation, with the teenagers constantly on their phones as they verify the availability of supplies, update information in real-time and field calls from frantic relatives.

"Some of us do midnight to morning shifts, because the calls don't stop at 3 am," said Prasad, 17, who works a 14-hour stretch from before midday until one in the morning.

It is a long and often tiring affair, the Mumbai-based student said, but added: "If I can help save a life, there is no part of me that is going to say no."

And lives have been saved, she said, pointing to a case where the team was able to source oxygen for a young Covid-19 patient in the middle of the night after an agonising two-hour wait.

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  Police raid Indian hospital and accuse doctors of 'false scare-mongering' over low oxygen supplies A small private hospital in India's most populous state is being charged under the National Security Act for sounding the alarm over a lack of oxygen. © N/A Akilesh Pandey's hospital is being charged under the National Security Act for sounding the alarm over the lack of oxygen The director of the Sun Hospital in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh told Sky News he faced being arrested at any time and his business seized after the police laid charges against him.Akilesh Pandey, who owns and runs the hospital in the state's capital, said four of his patients died on a single day when oxygen ran out.

As India battles a deadly second wave of the pandemic , its healthcare system has come under severe strain. Hospitals are experiencing shortages of oxygen for patients and, as people try to get hold of their own supplies, online misinformation has been spreading. India ' s social media platforms have been inundated with messages suggesting various herbal home remedies for treating the symptoms of Covid-19, such as falling oxygen levels. One widely shared "remedy" suggests a mix of camphor, clove, carom seeds and eucalyptus oil will be beneficial in maintaining oxygen levels while suffering from

India ' s capital Delhi has extended its lockdown as overcrowded hospitals continue to turn patients away. The government has approved plans for more than 500 oxygen generation plants across the country to boost supplies. Meanwhile neighbouring Bangladesh has announced that it will close its border with India from Monday to prevent the spread of the virus. "Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic , we are determined to help India in its time of need," said President Joe Biden.

a man sitting on a bench talking on a cell phone: Many people in India have turned to social media in a desperate bid to secure hospital beds, medicines or oxygen for Covid-19 patients © TAUSEEF MUSTAFA Many people in India have turned to social media in a desperate bid to secure hospital beds, medicines or oxygen for Covid-19 patients

"It's not only about providing resources... sometimes people just need to know they are not alone", she said.

- 'Oxygen man' -

With two-thirds of its 1.3-billion people under the age of 35, India is an overwhelmingly young country, but its youth have never been called on to shoulder such huge responsibilities.

As India's pandemic has grown ever more dystopian -- with crematoriums running out of space and patients, including a former ambassador, dying in hospital parking lots -- many have volunteered in droves.

In the slums of Mumbai, Shanawaz Shaikh has provided free oxygen to thousands of people.

Known popularly as the "oxygen man", the 32-year-old sold his cherished SUV last June to fund the initiative after his friend's pregnant cousin died in a rickshaw while trying to get admitted to a hospital.

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  India is a Covid tragedy - it didn't have to be Experts tell the BBC that delays in decision-making worsened the crisis of India's second wave.As he spoke, several small hospitals - only a few miles from where he stood in the capital - were sending out desperate messages about them running out of oxygen, putting patients' lives at risk.

India has already ordered its army to send its oxygen from army reserves to hospital while retired military medical personnel have been called up to help. India ' s Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost an election in the key state of West Bengal on Sunday.Why it matters: Modi has been criticized for his handling of the pandemic amid a widespread oxygen shortage, record daily cases and a surging death toll, with accusations that the real numbers are much higher.Get market news worthy of.

India ’ s vaccinations plummet as coronavirus infections soar. India ’ s daily COVID-19 shots have fallen sharply from an all-time high reached early last month as domestic companies struggle to boost supplies and imports are limited, even as the country fights the world’s worst surge in infections. Iraq on Monday began evacuating its nationals from India amid the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the South Asian country. “Iraqi Airways launched first exceptional flights to India to evacuate Iraqi citizens stranded there due to the spread of coronavirus,” Kifah Hussein, airline chief, said in a statement.

"She died because she couldn't get oxygen in time," he told AFP.

He never expected to be fielding so many requests nearly a year later.

"We used to get around 40 calls a day last year, now it's more like 500," he said.

Shaikh's team of 20 volunteers are also battling a massive shortage, made worse by profiteers.

"It's a test of one's faith," he said, describing how he sometimes travels dozens of kilometres (miles) to source oxygen for desperate patients.

"But when I am able to help someone, I feel like crying."

- Overwhelmed volunteers -

While major cities have borne the brunt so far, the limitations of technology are becoming apparent as the virus burrows into smaller towns and villages, software engineer Umang Galaiya told AFP.

Urgent requests for supplies and spare hospital beds have promoted a flood of leads on Twitter -- many unconfirmed.

Galaiya responded by building an app to make it easier for users to find what they are looking for and, crucially, limit their search to verified resources only.

But even so, his app is unlikely to help people outside big cities, the 25-year-old said, citing the example of his hometown in hard-hit Gujarat state where internet usage is low.

How deadly is India's Covid variant and is it REALLY behind crisis?

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"If I look for resources in Jamnagar, there is nothing on Twitter," he said.

Ultimately the pandemic cannot be defeated without the government, he added, outlining simple measures that could have saved many lives.

For instance, officials could have created a real-time, automatically updated online registry of beds, to spare distressed patients the effort of running from one packed facility to another.

"If we can do it for movie theatres, to avoid overbooking, why can't we do it for hospitals?" he asked.

Youth-led efforts were also unsustainable, the Bangalore-based tech worker said, pointing out that overwhelmed volunteers would likely run out of energy themselves as the virus ravages their cities.

The trauma of confronting illness and death daily is already beginning to show.

"We work very hard but we can't save everyone," said Mumbai teenager Prasad, her voice quavering as she recalled efforts to help an 80-year-old woman who died.

Although they take breaks and arrange Zoom movie-viewing sessions to try and unwind, the stress never fully dissipates.

"My parents do worry about it," she said.

"But when their friends need help, they also turn to me."

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World offers help as India Covid crisis deepens .
The UK sends equipment and the US pledges vaccine raw materials as cases overwhelm Indian hospitals.The UK has begun sending ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices. EU members are also due to send aid.

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