Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has irked netizens in Singapore who have called him out for claiming that a “very dangerous" strain of the COVID-19 was prevalent in the city state, accusing him of “spreading misinformation” while seeking an apology and recommending a fact checking.
Kejriwal’s tweet in which he said that the new strain of coronavirus found in Singapore could invade India in the form of a third wave has attracted angry reactions from Singaporeans on social media.
"The new form of coronavirus in Singapore is said to be very dangerous for children. It could reach Delhi in the form of a third wave. My appeal to the Central government: 1. Cancel all air services with Singapore with immediate effect 2. Work on vaccine alternatives for children on a priority basis," the Delhi chief minister said in a tweet in Hindi on Tuesday.
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Responding to Kejriwal’s tweet, Singapore’s health ministry on Tuesday night said: “There is no truth whatsoever in the assertions found within the reports”.
“There is no Singapore variant. The strain that is prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which originated in India. Phylogenetic testing has shown this B.1.617.2 variant to be associated with several clusters in Singapore,” it said in a statement.
There is no truth in the assertion that there is a new COVID strain in Singapore. Phylogenetic testing has shown that the B.1.617.2 variant is the prevalent strain in many of the COVID cases, including in children, in recent weeks in Singapore.https://t.co/uz0mNPNxlE https://t.co/Vyj7gyyzvJ— Singapore in India (@SGinIndia) May 18, 2021
Prominent Singapore blogger mrbrown wrote: “Hey, Delhi chief minister! The B1617 strain came from your country.”
A Twitter user with the handle 'Antaraaneja' said that Singapore schools are closed because of the B.1.617.2 strain, “Perhaps fact checking and an apology are in order for spreading misinformation.”
Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday tweeted that "Politicians should stick to facts! There is no “Singapore variant”."
He also thanked External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for clearing the air after Kejriwal tweeted.
"Thanks @DrSJaishankar let’s focus on resolving the situation in our respective countries and helping one another. Nobody is safe until everyone is safe," he said in another tweet.
Earlier, the Singapore government on Wednesday conveyed to the Indian High Commissioner its strong objection to Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal's comments about a "Singapore variant" of COVID-19, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in New Delhi.
MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the Indian High Commissioner conveyed to the Singapore government that the Delhi chief minister has no competence to comment on COVID variants.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said the Delhi Chief Minister does not speak for India.
“Singapore Government called in our High Commissioner today to convey strong objection to Delhi CM's tweet on "Singapore variant". High Commissioner clarified that Delhi CM had no competence to pronounce on Covid variants or civil aviation policy," Bagchi tweeted.
Singapore Government called in our High Commissioner today to convey strong objection to Delhi CM's tweet on "Singapore variant". High Commissioner clarified that Delhi CM had no competence to pronounce on Covid variants or civil aviation policy.— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) May 19, 2021
Meanwhile, Singapore has closed all schools from Wednesday and switched to home-based learning.
The authorities also decided to vaccinate students aged between 12-15 as the number of infections in schools has increased recently.
Singapore’s health ministry further said that phylogenetic testing has shown this B.1.617.2 variant to be associated with several clusters in Singapore.
Two COVID-19 sub-variants from India have been detected among imported and community (local) cases in Singapore, including those who have been linked to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport clusters, it said.
Singapore has stopped allowing entry for long-term pass holders and short-term pass holders with recent travel from India from April 24.
Atul Temurnikar, Chairman of the Global Indian International School, said that there are comprehensive COVID-19 measures in place in Singapore to protect young, school-going students and they have proven to be very effective.
School life is unaffected and exams are conducted normally. In fact, cases of infections among children are less than 20, all of which have been linked to adult sources outside of schools, he said.
"The situation in Singapore is normal, and not at all alarming as it is made out to be. There are strict control mechanisms in place which are adjusted on a regular basis to deal with the developing situation around us," he said in reaction to the reports in Indian media.
Earlier, India’s Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri replied to the Delhi CM's tweet, saying, "Kejriwal ji, all international flights have been stopped since March 2020. We have no air bubble with Singapore either."
Only a few flights are being operated between the two countries under Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians stuck there, he added.
"We are still keeping an eye on the situation. All precautions are being taken," Puri noted.
According to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday, India saw a record 4,529 fatalities due to coronavirus in a single day, pushing the COVID-19 death toll to 2,83,248, while 2,67,334 fresh infections were recorded, taking the total tally of cases to 2,54,96,330.
The active cases have further reduced to 32,26,719 comprising 12.66 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has improved to 86.23 per cent.
(With PTI inputs.)