A journalist in India died while live-tweeting his deteriorating condition from Covid-19 and his wait for help from the authorities, in what is the latest example of overstretched health resources in a country that has become the global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vinay Srivastava, a freelance journalist from the country’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, tweeted about the crumbling health infrastructure impacting doctors, hospitals and pathological labs in light of rising Covid-19 cases.
Writing in the evening of 16 April, he said: “I am 65 years old and I have spondylitis too due to which my oxygen level is reduced to 52. No hospital, lab, or doctor is picking the phone.”
His tweet was followed by a series of responses from ordinary people as well as officers of the Uttar Pradesh government, trying to offer their help.
On 17 April, over 18 hours after his tweet was posted and with it going viral online, he received a response from the handle “112 Uttar Pradesh”, an official account of the Uttar Pradesh police for providing emergency assistance related to fire, ambulance or any other issue, writing at 2.01pm on Saturday asking him to message his phone number.
Within a minute, at 2.02pm, Shalabh Mani Tripathi, who is an adviser to Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath, tweeted: “Provide full details” please. In response, the freelance journalist in a tweet at 2.36pm shared all his details.
He followed it with a tweet at 3.15pm asking when will the help arrive. In reply to Mr Tripathi’s tweet, he tweeted at 3.17pm, a picture of his hand with a device showing a low oxygen level of 31. A level of oxygen in the blood below 94 (out of 100) is seen as cause for alarm.
Some social media users asked him to maintain faith in the state government while others assured him that help will arrive soon. To this, the journalist responded at 2.30pm on Saturday that the security guard at a hospital in Balrampur was not allowing him to enter.
At 4.21pm, his son Harshit Srivastava wrote in a tweet that his father has died, while expressing anger at the fact the promised help never materialised.
His son told The Print that three hospitals refused to give a bed to his father, with one of them asking for a letter from a senior officer for admission, and ultimately his father died without getting any medical care.
Uttar Pradesh is one of the worst-hit states in India from the second wave of the pandemic, with many citizens complaining on social media that they are not able to get their Covid-19 tests done, get medicines, get oxygen or other critical medicines and that they are not getting beds in hospitals.
India as a whole is seeing record-breaking numbers of Covid cases added each day, with around 295,000 new infections recorded on Wednesday.
India has recorded over 15.5 million cases in total, including over 180,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic, figures which are widely accepted to be an underestimate of the true scale of the crisis.
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