COVID: India’s Foreign Minister slams Delhi Chief Minister over ‘Singapore variant’ comments

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
A traveller (R) waits in the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore on March 15, 2021. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
A traveller (R) waits in the departure hall of Changi International Airport in Singapore on March 15, 2021. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — India's External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and his ministry spokesperson on Wednesday (19 May) slammed Delhi's Chief Minister (CM) Arvind Kejriwal over his comments about a "Singapore variant" of COVID-19.

Dr Jaishankar said Kejriwal does not speak for India, while spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the CM has "no competence to pronounce on COVID variants or civil aviation policy".

In controversial posts on Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday, Kejriwal alleged that a variant of COVID-19 found in Singapore was particularly harmful to children and could cause a third wave of infections in India. He urged the Indian government to ban all air services with Singapore immediately.

On Wednesday, Dr Jaishankar said, "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.

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Meanwhile, India's Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "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."

Earlier on Wednesday, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it "regrets the unfounded assertions" made by Kejriwal.

"MFA is disappointed that a prominent political figure had failed to ascertain the facts before making such claims," it added.

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Unfounded assertions

Kejriwal's comments were first published on Tuesday by the Hindustan Times ("Coronavirus variant found in Singapore can be India's 3rd wave, extremely dangerous for kids, warns Arvind Kejriwal") and NDTV (“Stop Singapore Flights: Arvind Kejriwal To Centre Over New Covid Strain”).

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) later the same day rejected the claims, 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," it added.

The ministry had on Saturday flagged the challenge of the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 prevalent in South Asia, saying the strain is not just a Singapore problem but a global one, as highlighted by the World Health Organisation.

The number of imported cases from South Asia over the past 28 days was 271, MOH said then.

MOH previously reported a total of 131 cases of the India variants – B.1.617 and B.1.617.1-3 – detected in Singapore as of 3 May.

In its latest report based on submissions from Singapore's researchers on 28 April, Gisaid, the world's largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences, reported a total of 156 cases of the India variants in Singapore over the past four weeks.

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Separately, in a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore Kumaran Periasamy shared that as of Monday, Singapore has contributed 8,264 oxygen concentrators, 51,000 oximeters, 63 ventilators, 6 dialysis machines, 64 ISO cryogenic tanks and 10,856 medical oxygen cylinders. The supplies were brought to India via 16 Indian Air Force planes and two Indian Navy ships.

"The contribution of Singapore as a key source of equipment required for Covid-relief continues to grow, as shown in the list below. The High Commission conveys its gratitude to all concerned for the support and assistance," he wrote.

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