People take their lunch break in the Raffles Place financial district in Singapore on May 5, 2021.
Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – Singapore has ordered Facebook, Twitter and a local publisher correcting what it says is a false statement implying a new variant of coronavirus native to the city-state that is at risk of spreading to India.
According to a law to prevent the spread of falsehoods on the Internet – officially called POFMA, or Law to protect against online lies and manipulation – Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung instructed the two social media giants and SPH magazines to send a correction notice to their users in Singapore. SPH Magazines has a popular forum called HardwareZone.
“There is no new” Singapore “variant of Covid-19. There is also no evidence of a Covid-19 variant that is” extremely dangerous “for children,” said the Singapore Ministry of Health.
“The strain that prevails in many of the Covid-19 cases discovered in Singapore in recent weeks is variant B.1.617.2, native to India,” he added. “The existence and distribution of variant B.1.617.2 in India goes back to the discovery of the variant in Singapore. This was publicly known and reported by various media on May 5, 2021.”
The Covid variant B.1.617 was first discovered in India last year. The World Health Organization recently named the B.1.617 a “worrying variant”, indicating that it has become a global health threat.
The move from Singapore came after unsubstantiated comments by an Indian politician sparked a diplomatic incident between the two countries earlier this week.
The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, tweeted on Tuesday that a new coronavirus variant in Singapore is said to be extremely dangerous for children and could lead to a third wave in India. He has provided no evidence to support his claims.
Kejriwal was publicly reprimanded by the foreign ministers of both countries.
“Politicians should stick to the facts! There is no such thing as a ‘Singapore variant’,” said Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s foreign minister, in a tweet in response to Kejriwal’s claim.
The Singapore Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it regretted Kejriwal’s “unsubstantiated claims”.
“MFA is disappointed that a prominent political figure did not establish the facts before making such allegations. MFA met with Indian High Commissioner P Kumaran this morning to express those concerns.” the State Department said.
India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the two countries are “solid partners” in the fight against the pandemic.
“Irresponsible comments from those who should know better, however, can harm long-term partnerships. Let me be clear – Delhi CM does not speak for India.” he said on Twitter. Jaishankar was previously India’s High Commissioner in Singapore.
India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri replied to Kejriwal’s comments on Twitterand noted that international flights to India have been suspended since March 2020.
He also pointed out that India and Singapore have no air travel bubble and that New Delhi only operates return flights from the city-state to bring back stranded Indians.
“Even so, we are keeping an eye on the situation. All precautions are being taken,” Puri said, according to a CNBC translation of his remarks in Hindi.
There has recently been a surge in locally submitted cases in Singapore, prompting the government to do so tighten social restrictions again.
While some children in the city-state were recently infected with Covid-19, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday that none of them were seriously ill, but the situation was still worrying. according to the Straits Times.
Still, Singapore announced on Tuesday that it would allow it Children between the ages of 12 and 15 must be vaccinated.
To date, Singapore has reported more than 61,600 cases and 31 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
India is the second worst infected country in the world after the US and is facing a devastating second wave. To date, India has reported more than 25 million cases and over 287,000 deaths, but experts believe the numbers have been severely under counted.
Delhi was one of the hardest hit regions in the country where hospitals are facing shortages of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and drugs to treat Covid-19 patients.