People wait to refill their medical oxygen cylinders for the Covid-19 patients under home quarantine at a private refill center in New Delhi on May 4, 2021, as India's total Covid caseload soared past 20 million. Photo: AFP / Prakash Singh

While India was battling the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Twitter saw an exponential surge in the number of daily tweets as people sought help and guidance for their family and friends battling the virus.

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook emerged as a lifeline for people asking for leads about oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, plasma donors and ventilators.

Sharing its key insights, the micro-blogging platform said: “The average daily number of tweets about Covid-19 from India increased by over 600% (seven times) during the surge (April 1-May 31, 2021). People in India came together to support each other and share information, bolstering replies during the surge months by 1.5 times.”

It added that an incredibly positive people’s movement to support one another took shape.

Tweets from medical professionals sharing information about the pandemic rose 1.5 times in April-May against the two preceding months. Authentic and accurate information by experts, government officials, health professionals and epidemiologists was sought by people using various hashtags around updates regarding coronavirus and this increased by 916%, Twitter added.

The company noted that tweets seeking or providing medical help increased by 1958% (20 times) and various hashtags related to Covid-19 witnessed heightened activity. #Covid19 was tweeted 77% more during April-May, while #Blood was tweeted 72% more as compared to the February-March period.

Similarly, #Plasma saw an 834% increase and #SOS was tweeted 152% more during this time. Tweets with hashtags – #CoronavirusUpdates, #CoronaIndiaUpdate, #Covid19IndiaResources and others – increased conversations by 10 times.

“Tweets around #Vaccine and #Vaccination went up by 246%. To support this conversation, Twitter introduced a home Timeline prompt that pointed people to vaccine-related updates and information from authoritative sources,” it said.

The period also witnessed a rise in volunteerism with many members offering help and contributing to relief efforts. Conversations related to fundraising went up eight-fold (731%) on the platform. Tweets on #IndiaFightsCorona saw a 530% increase, while #DelhiFightsCorona and #MaharashtraFightsCorona also witnessed a significant increase.

Tweets related to mental well-being rose 153% (2.5 times) during the surge period as people tweeted with hashtags such as #DoctorsMentalhealth, #CovidCounselling, #CovidDepression, #CovidInsomnia and others. Twitter also introduced a number of features and initiatives in support of the Covid-19 conversation in India.

During the April-May period, India witnessed a devastating second wave of Covid-19 with daily cases surging more than 400,000 and 4,000-plus people dying on a daily basis. The country was frequently setting records during the two months.

India’s total caseload is now more than 30 million, with over 398,000 deaths. Many experts believe the real number is much higher, as the second wave made inroads to rural areas, where health facilities and record-keeping is poor.

This wave overwhelmed hospitals and there was a severe shortage of oxygen and critical drugs. Even crematoriums and cemeteries saw a huge rush and in some cases, last rites were performed on makeshift pyres in adjoining spaces such as parking lots and footpaths.

There were also reports of bodies of suspected Covid-19 victims floating down the Ganges river or buried in shallow graves on its banks.

The daily cases have now gone down below 100,000 and the second wave has weakened, but experts have warned against complacency as they expect a third wave around September.