Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue general correction directions (CDs) to Facebook, Twitter and SPH Magazines on Thursday (20 May), over a false statement about an “unknown variant of COVID-19 originated in Singapore”.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health (MOH) noted that it is aware of a false statement circulating online by multiple media outlets and social media platforms, which implies that “a new, previously unknown variant of COVID-19 originated in Singapore and/or risks spreading to India from Singapore”.

“There is no new ‘Singapore’ variant of COVID 19. Neither is there evidence of any COVID-19 variant that is ‘extremely dangerous for kids’. The strain that is prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases detected in Singapore in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which originated from India.

“The existence and spread of the B.1.617.2 variant within India predates the detection of the variant in Singapore, and this has been publicly known and reported by various media sources from as early as 5 May 2021,” it stated.

As such, the POFMA Office has been instructed by Mr Ong to issue general correction directions to Facebook, Twitter and SPH Magazines.

“Facebook, Twitter and SPH Magazines are required to carry the Correction Notice to all end-users in Singapore who use Facebook, Twitter and HardwareZone.com,” it added.

Hardware Zone is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

There is no mention of any POFMA CD being issued to the Indian ministers who made the claims and the media outlets in India that made the original reports over it.

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.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar then weighed in to criticise Delhi Chief Minister, saying that the Chief Minister “does not speak for India” and that “irresponsible comments from those who should know better can damage long-standing partnerships.”

Dr Jaishankar further added that Singapore and India have been “solid partners” in the fight against Covid-19 and that India appreciates Singapore’s role as a logistics hub and oxygen supplier. “Their gesture of deploying military aircraft to help us speaks of our exceptional relationship,” he said.

Notwithstanding the assurance of Dr Jaishankar, the Delhi State Government continues to insist that there is a “Singapore variant” which came into India.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain insisted, “Wrong to say that there is no Covid strain particular to Singapore. There are many Covid strains in India. I will give you a clarification on the Singapore strain very soon. But be assured that there is a new strain in India (which originated in Singapore).”

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