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After Kejriwal blunder, Singapore tells Twitter, Facebook to correct falsehoods on ‘Singapore strain’

A healthcare worker collects swab samples for Covid-19 testing from a worker who is returning for work at a regional screening centre in Singapore (IANS)

A day after it regretted the "unfounded assertions" made on Facebook and Twitter by Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal that a variant of Covid-19 found in the country was particularly harmful to children, Singapore today issued correction directions to various social media platforms on the "falsehoods" circulating on "Singapore" strain. 

Kejriwal had asserted that the so-called new Singapore strain could cause a third wave of infections in India.

A furious Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore said Thursday 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.

"The Minister for Health has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue General Correction Directions to Facebook, Twitter and SPH Magazines Pte Ltd (HardwareZone forum). 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," the health ministry said in a statement today.

It reiterated that there is no new "Singapore" variant of Covid-19 and 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," the ministry said.

The government advised members of the public not to speculate and/or spread unfounded rumours and visit the official websites for latest information on Covid-19.

Delhi CM Kejriwal's statement on the emergence of a new Covid-19 strain from Singapore had sparked a major row and caused massive embarrassment to the Indian government on Tuesday.

"The new form of Corona that came to Singapore is said to be extremely dangerous for children, in India as it may come as a third wave. My appeal to the central government: 1. Air services with Singapore to be cancelled with immediate effect 2. Vaccine options should be worked out for children too," Kejriwal had tweeted.

On Wednesday, the Singapore Foreign Ministry officials had called in the Indian envoy to lodge its objection to Kejriwal’s remarks.

"MFA is disappointed that a prominent political figure had failed to ascertain the facts before making such claims. MFA met the High Commissioner of India P Kumaran this morning to express these concerns," Singapore said yesterday.

India's External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar, while lauding the exceptional role that Singapore has been playing in India’s fight against Covid-19, said that Kejriwal does not "speak for India".

"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," Jaishankar tweeted.

His counterpart in Singapore, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, quoted Kejriwal’s original tweet and wrote on Twitter: "Politicians should stick to facts! There is no 'Singapore variant'."


Kejriwal’s statement on Covid variant from Singapore triggers tweet storm, embarrasses India