India — The Singapore government on Wednesday called in the Indian envoy to lodge its objection to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s remarks about a new Coronavirus strain allegedly being detected in the Southeast Asian country.
Indian high commissioner P Kumaran clarified Kejriwal had “no competence” to comment on Covid-19 variants, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a tweet.
Hours after Kejriwal tweeted on Tuesday about the alleged new Coronavirus strain in Singapore and asked the Centre to immediately suspend flights from that country, Singapore’s health ministry dismissed his assertions and said the variant prevalent in many Covid-19 cases in recent weeks was the “B.1.617.2 variant, which originated in 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.
Earlier on Wednesday, Singapore foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan quoted Kejriwal’s original tweet and wrote on Twitter: “Politicians should stick to facts! There is no ‘Singapore variant’.”
Balakrishnan included in his tweet a link to an article in the publication Nature with the headline “Coronavirus variants are spreading in India – what scientists know so far”. The article said Coronavirus variants including B.1.617 have been linked to the massive surge in infections in India in recent weeks.
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that the Singapore government had reacted so strongly because Kejriwal’s assertions had not gone down well with the people of Singapore. Many people had taken umbrage at his remarks and publicly complained about them, the people said.
The Singapore health ministry’s statement of Tuesday had cited Indian media reports quoting Kejriwal and said: “There is no truth whatsoever in the assertions found within the reports.”
The statement added: “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.”
Kejriwal had asked the Centre to immediately suspend flights from Singapore because the alleged new strain was suspected to affect children. He also contended that the alleged new strain could lead to a third wave of infections in India and said the Centre should focus on identifying vaccines for children.
Union aviation minister Hardeep Puri responded to Kejriwal’s remarks by saying that there were no regular flights between India and Singapore, except for a few under the Vande Bharat mission to repatriate Indian nationals.
Kejriwal had said in his tweet in Hindi: “The new form of Covid-19 that has come to Singapore is being said to be extremely dangerous for children. In India, it may come as a third wave. My appeal to the Central government: 1. Air services with Singapore be cancelled with immediate effect 2. Priority on vaccine options should be worked out for children too.