Singapore denies Kejriwal claim of new COVID variant, Indian govt says Delhi CM “does not speak for India”

Photo courtesy: Connected to India
Photo courtesy: Connected to India

The Singapore government has released a statement refuting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s claims of a new “Singapore variant” which affects children. 

“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,” tweeted the Singapore High Commission in India. 

The Ministry of Health too released a statement saying, “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”.

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also put out a strong statement, tweeting, "Politicians should stick to facts! There is no 'Singapore variant'."

The Indian government slammed Kejriwal as well, saying that the Delhi Chief Minister had 
"no competence to pronounce on Covid variants or civil aviation policy."

"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," tweeted Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. 

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also tweeted saying, "Singapore and India have been solid partners in the fight against Covid-19. Appreciate Singapore's role as a logistics hub and oxygen supplier. Their gesture of deploying military aircraft to help us speaks of our exceptional relationship."

"However, irresponsible comments from those who should know better can damage long-standing partnerships. So, let me clarify- Delhi CM does not speak for India," he added. 

Singapore MFA Balakrishnan responded to Jaishankar's tweet saying, "Thanks
@DrSJaishankar. Let’s focus on resolving the situation in our respective countries and helping one another. Nobody is safe until everyone is safe."

This follows Kejriwal's tweet on Tuesday asking the Indian government to stop all flights from Singapore over fears of a new variant in the island nation which has been affecting children. 

Photo courtesy: Twitter/@ArvindKejriwal
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@ArvindKejriwal

“The new corona strain in Singapore is said to be very dangerous for children. It may come to India as the third wave. I appeal to the central government to: 1. Suspend all air services with Singapore 2. Give priority to developing a vaccine for children,” Kejriwal had tweeted in Hindi.

Singapore has been grappling with an increase in the number of COVID cases with authorities warning that the new virus strains were affecting more children in the country. Singapore has shifted all primary, secondary schools and junior colleges to full home-based learning starting May 19 as more COVID clusters have emerged, including amongst children at a tuition center. 

India meanwhile has been ravaged by a second wave of the virus which has had a high fatality rate and experts are warning of a third wave later this year. While the first wave in 2020 affected the elderly more, the second wave has seen more young people affected and experts believe that the third wave may hit children the hardest. 

As of now, there are no vaccines available in India for people below 18 years of age. Last week, the US authorised Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged between 12-15 years. However most countries are yet to approve a vaccine for children. 

On May 13, the Drugs Controller General of India gave clearance to start trials of Covaxin on children between the ages of 2 and 18.