Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday (18 May) flagged a new variant of COVID-19 found in Singapore and urged the Government of India to immediately halt flights to and from Singapore, warning that the variant can “come as a third wave” in India.
Mr Kejriwal took to his Twitter to warn that the new variant detected in Singapore is “very dangerous for children” and called on the Central Government to immediately suspend air services with the city-state, as reported by Indian Express.
“A new variant of coronavirus found in Singapore is being said to be very dangerous for children. This can usher in the third wave (of COVID-19) in India.
“I appeal to the Central government to immediately halt air services with Singapore, and work on developing a vaccine for children on a priority basis,” he wrote.
सिंगापुर में आया कोरोना का नया रूप बच्चों के लिए बेहद ख़तरनाक बताया जा रहा है, भारत में ये तीसरी लहर के रूप में आ सकता है।
केंद्र सरकार से मेरी अपील:
1. सिंगापुर के साथ हवाई सेवाएं तत्काल प्रभाव से रद्द हों
2. बच्चों के लिए भी वैक्सीन के विकल्पों पर प्राथमिकता के आधार पर काम हो
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) May 18, 2021
“There is a possibility that the third wave virus will predominantly target the children, mainly because adults are either infected or immunised,” cardiac surgeon and chief of Narayana Health, Dr Devi Shetty also told the media.
It’s not known what new “Covid variant” the Delhi chief minister was referring to but according to a Singapore news report on Sun (16 May), it is still the B.1617 strain, commonly known as the double-mutant variant of the coronavirus first detected in India last year.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who co-chairs the Government’s Covid-19 task force, said, “The behaviour of the virus has not changed since last year, (in terms of just needing) one superspreading incident to spread to many.”
“This strain is no different, but it is true that there has been literature showing that (the B1617 strain) is more virulent. Fundamentally, you’re looking at a very contagious virus.”
Meanwhile, India’s total tally of coronavirus cases rose past the 25 million mark with 263,533 new infections over the past 24 hours as reported today, while deaths from COVID-19 rose by a record 4,329.
Travel bubble bursted after spike in COVID-19 cases in Singapore
It was reported on Monday (17 May) that Singapore and Hong Kong have also delayed the air travel bubble (ATB) between the two cities – which slated to launch on 26 May – following the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Singapore.
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement that the city-state was unable to meet the criteria to launch the Singapore-Hong Kong ATB “in the light of the recent increase in unlinked community cases”.
The Ministry of Health (MOH), however, stressed that the B.1617 variant of COVID-19 prevalent in South Asia is “not just a Singapore problem” but a “global concern” as highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“These cases all originated from imports because all borders are porous. All it takes is one case to cause an outbreak, and no country can seal itself off totally. At the minimum, citizens and residents must be allowed to return home,” Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a Facebook post on Saturday (15 May).
MOH did not specify the number of cases that contracted the B.1617 variant in Singapore, but according to the Gisaid website, as of Sunday (16 May), the number was 156. Singapore was ranked 4th in the world with the highest number of infections involving the B1617 variant.
NCID director warns Singapore’s current COVID-19 “likely more dangerous” than last year’s
Meanwhile, a director of infectious disease research at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) Dr David Lye has warned that the current COVID-19 in Singapore is “likely more dangerous” than it was before the circuit breaker last year, as many of the community cases are unlinked and the spread of COVID-19 from the Changi Airport may be “wide and far”.
In a message circulating on Whatsapp and social media platforms, Dr Lye has called on the public to “do much more beyond what Government dictates” as the city-state could be facing a “more dangerous” COVID-19 situation.
NCID has reportedly confirmed that the text was written by Dr Lye, as stated by TODAY on Monday (17 May).
He explained that the situation in Singapore last year was “bad” because of the “huge outbreak” in dormitories among migrant workers, which “could be contained by locking down albeit with a lot of resources”.
But the current situation is “likely more dangerous” because “many cases with no linkage now suggest the spread to community from the Changi Airport outbreak may be wide and far”, said Dr Lye.
“40-50% of infected have no symptoms and can be equally infectious. 10% can get sick enough to need oxygen.
“Yes we have effective vaccines and treatment, and expanded testing capacity but against us is the new mutant strains that infected TTSH and Changi Airport staff despite masks and vaccination,” he wrote.
As such, Dr Lye called on the public to stay home and avoid crowded places as well as big groups.
He advised forming a “small social bubble” of people who are committed not to socialise beyond the bubble, urging people to wear a mask over their mouth and nose even when walking in parks.
Dr Lye also urged people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, given that the outbreak at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) showed that “not enough vulnerable old people get vaccinated”.