Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has refuted claims made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, stating that there’s a new COVID-19 variant in Singapore.
The minister’s claims were reported in articles published by major Indian publications like Hindustan Times and NDTV.
“There is no truth whatsoever in the assertions found within the reports. There is no ‘Singapore variant’,” an MOH spokesman said on Tuesday (18 May).
He continued, “The strain that is prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is the B16172 variant, which originated in India. Phylogenetic testing has shown this B16172 variant to be associated with several clusters in Singapore.”
Mr Kejriwal, who wrote a Twitter post in Hindi on Tuesday, urged the Indian government to cancel flights with Singapore, adding that a “new strain” of COVID-19 could lead to a third wave of infections in India.
“The new form of Corona that came 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 is for air services with Singapore to be cancelled with immediate effect and to prioritise the options for vaccinating children at the earliest,” he wrote.
His comments were carried out by several publications in India. Hindustan Times published an article titled “Coronavirus variant found in Singapore can be India’s 3rd wave, extremely dangerous for kids, warns Arvind Kejriwal”.
Additionally, Indian broadcaster NDTV also carried out a report with the headline “Stop Singapore Flights: Arvind Kejriwal To Centre Over New COVID Strain”.
His remarks prompted Indian Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri to say in another Twitter post that India has nothing to be worried about as international flights to India have been suspended since March last year.
He also went on to highlight that Singapore does not have an air travel bubble with India. “We just bring back Indian people stranded there with Vande Bharat flights. They are our own people. We still have an eye on the situation. All precautions are being taken,” he said, referring to repatriation flights.
In October last year, the B1617 strain emerged in India and has since been detected in dozens of countries worldwide, including Singapore. The World Health Organisation has also labelled it as a variant “of concern”.
The B16172 strain is a sublineage of the B1617 strain, and is associated with the Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport clusters.
Upon hearing the minister’s claims, online users expressed their anger towards Mr Kejriwal, noting that he is a guy with “low IQ” and is a “joker”. Penning their thoughts in the Facebook pages of The Straits Times and Channel News Asia, netizens said that the Singapore government has been very kind to India for allowing its citizens to enter the city-state, but now they are blaming Singapore itself.
One user wrote: “They have an enormous mess in their hands and yet want to casually make remarks about us”.
A large number of citizens have urged the Singapore Government to “wake up” and close the country’s borders as people of India are not appreciating the Republic’s kindness. They explained that Singaporeans are “treated like fools for being too ‘kind'”, emphasising the urgency to stop all flights from India.
A number of them have also asked the Indian minister to issue an official apology for his “misleading and damaging information”. They added that the Singapore government should make a stand and demand an apology from the Indian government.
Several Indian nationals have also came forward to say that they are embarrassed by the claims made by Mr Kejriwal, adding that he is “useless” and not taken serious even by the people of India.