COVID-19 helpline numbers on social media a boon or bane?

Helpline numbers carry information such as requirement of beds in hospitals, availability of Remdesivir injections, plasma donors and oxygen cylinders

New Delhi: As the COVID-19 pandemic has turned more menacing than last year, there has been a massive increase in the number of people seeking help and those lending support on social media.

The contact numbers of people, who can arrange a quick-fix solution for availing Remdesivir injections, plasma or oxygen cylinders, are spreading on the social media like wildfire.

People post and even share with one another helpline numbers on the social media. However, people whose loved ones are struggling with the pandemic are quite happy to see the helpline numbers online and have started contacting such numbers. But the calls to these helpline numbers elicit responses such as ‘busy’, ‘out of service’ or ‘do not reply’.

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These helpline numbers carry information such as the requirement of beds in hospitals, availability of Remdesivir injections, plasma donors and oxygen cylinders. Availing of such facilities is just a call away.

However, people continue to forward these helpline numbers without dialling them on their own due to which such numbers are flooded with calls and people are unable to get a response from the right helpline number.

According to a forwarded message, Remdesivir injection is available at Lawrence Road in New Delhi, after which IANS called the number printed on the message many times. The call was not picked up at first, and after some time this helpline number indicated ‘busy’. IANS then dialled another number which was switched off. However, this helpline number on the ‘True Caller’ app traced the call to a number in Andhra Pradesh.

IANS dialled the helpline number of the second forwarded message which said “call this number for availing Remdesivir injection in Delhi”. On dialling this number, the telephone line indicated ‘busy’. After a while, someone disconnected the call.

In the next forwarded message, the number of an organization, KAB Welfare Foundation, was written for receiving plasma. When dialled, it said ‘out of service’. In the same message, another number under the name ‘DYFI Delhi’ was given. However, this number also responded ‘out of service’.

Likewise, many other forwarded messages are circulating on WhatsApp, Twitter or Facebook, but the helpline numbers are either non-reachable or the person on the other end hangs up.

Some people on social media helped several critical patients infected with COVID-19, after which this online trend of sharing helpline numbers gained traction and people started helping COVID-19 patients in large numbers.

A message in the name of a company called Cipla is also going viral, saying that one can contact them for the Remdesivir injection. This helpline number is correct but a pre-recorded message is heard while dialling the number.

The pre-recorded message says that the medicine could be available in 4-5 days and we are registering every single call and will contact whenever there is availability of the medicine.

IANS tried to contact many helpline numbers circulating on social media, but no single contact number was functional which could be contacted.

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