This Lucknow-based group began with a single helpline. Today, it is helping Covid victims find the medical resources they need

Virals Group members sourcing medical supplies

On May 9, Payal Yadav and her husband made over 50 calls to oxygen suppliers in Lucknow. They urgently needed an oxygen cylinder for Yadav’s 92-year-old mother, whose blood oxygen levels had slipped to 85. That day, they managed to find a 30 litre cylinder, but Yadav recalls the dread she felt when she realised their hunt for oxygen was far from over. “We were so sick and tired of making calls,” she says. “It was exhausting.” A neighbour recommended that she put out her request on a local WhatsApp group that had been helping people find medicine, oxygen and other Covid essentials in the city. It was called The Virals Group. Within a few hours, the group had sent Yadav around 20 verified leads for oxygen sources in Lucknow.

“When Covid broke out in the city, I realised that there were many young people sitting at home and doing nothing. I wondered what would happen if we found a way to motivate them to help and then gave them a platform through which they could support our city,” says Tejaswini Tandon, a 24-year-old teacher, who, along with friends Sunil Verma and Dipanshu Chaudhary, founded the group.

Initially, only a couple of volunteers signed up. Today, they have ten helpline groups, each with 250 members. “We get requests from across the state—Meerut, Allahabad, Varanasi. Some are cries for help from those whose friends or family are in Lucknow, others are from people who want to join our group and help save lives. Messages pour in on Twitter and through Instagram,” she adds. The group collects leads on ambulance services, oxygen, hospital beds, medicines and then verifies them individually. When requests come in, these verified leads are given to save people the time and effort of making countless calls themselves. The group also maintains a record of the various medical resources available and each supplier. “Every minute saved can help get someone life-saving medical support,” says Tandon.

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