Kejriwal Doesn’t Speak for India: EAM After Singapore Govt Objects
Kejriwal had earlier on Tuesday tweeted, asking the Centre to cancel all flights from Singapore over the strain.
Hours after Singapore on Tuesday, 18 May, denied that there was any truth behind Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s assertion that there is a new COVID-19 strain in the country, and dismissed his claims, India has responded, calling Singapore a “solid partner” and saying that Kejriwal does not “speak for India.”
CM Kejriwal had earlier on Tuesday taken to Twitter to ask the Centre to immediately cancel all flights from Singapore, stating that a new strain of the virus, found in the country, is said to be “very dangerous” for children.
HOW HAS SINGAPORE REACTED?
Singapore has strongly reacted to Kejriwal’s tweet, dismissing his claims and conveyed their objections.
“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,” the country’s health ministry asserted in a press release.
Meanwhile, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan responded to Kejriwal on Twitter, asking him to stick to facts.
Further, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday that the Singapore government called India’s High Commissioner to convey its strong objection to the tweet.
“The High Commissioner clarified that Delhi CM had no competence to pronounce on COVID variants or civil aviation policy,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
WHAT HAS THE INDIAN GOVT SAID?
Responding after the rebuke from the Singapore, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said that Singapore and India have been solid partners in the fight against COVID-19.
“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 wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, responding to Kejriwal, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said that there were no regular flights between India and Singapore, except for a few under the Vande Bharat mission to repatriate Indian nationals. There is no air bubble with Singapore either, he stated on Tuesday.
SINGAPORE HIGH COMMISSIONER TO INDIA
Asking to put an end to this “episode”, Singapore High Commissioner to India Simon Wong asserted on Wednesday afternoon that Delhi CM’s remarks would not impact India and Singapore’s “hand-in-hand fight against COVID”.
Wong said, “In Singapore, we have Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to mitigate misinformation and we reserve the right to invoke POFMA on assertions made by the CM (Delhi). However, we're satisfied with GoI's clarification.”
In view of S Jaishankar’s three-point response, Wong said that Singapore is heartened by the assurances of authorities representing the Government of India, adding, “We’re working together.” Wong further emphasised that the “pandemic knows no boundary or political colour”.
WHAT DID KEJRIWAL SAY?
Kejriwal had tweeted that the new strain of the virus could invade India in the form of a third wave. He also urged the Centre to prioritise working on “vaccine alternatives” for children.
“The new form of coronavirus in Singapore is said to be very dangerous for children. It could reach Delhi in the form of a third wave. My appeal to the Central government:
1. Cancel all air services with Singapore with immediate effect
2. Work on vaccine alternatives for children on a priority basis.”
THIRD WAVE CONCERNS
Kejriwal’s tweet came amid concerns over a third wave. Pointing out that the first wave affected the elderly the most, the second affected younger people, the third wave, experts reckon, is likely to impact children.
Dr Devi Shetty, cardiac surgeon and chief of Narayana Health, was quoted by NDTV, as saying: "There is a possibility that the third wave of COVID will predominantly target the children, mainly because adults are either already infected or immunised.”
Meanwhile, the government’s Principal Scientific Adviser K Vijay Raghavan has also warned that a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is "inevitable" and said that vaccines need to be "updated" to deal with the emerging strains.
"Phase three is inevitable given the higher levels of the circulating virus, but it is not clear on what time-scale this phase will occur. We should be prepared for new waves.”
BUT HOW TO VACCINATE CHILDREN?
While the US recently authorised Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use among children aged between 12 and 15 years, there are no vaccines presently available for children in India.
The Drugs Controller General of India, on 13 May, permitted vaccine trials on children aged between 2 and 18 years.
Meanwhile, a few states, including Maharashtra and Karnataka, were reported to be readying themselves for the third wave. They have set up COVID-care centres for children and constituted a paediatric task force.
SITUATION IN SINGAPORE
As per AFP, Singapore has decided to close schools from Wednesday after a warning of a new coronavirus strain – like the one first detected in India – affecting more children.
Following months of near-zero cases, a recent rise in local transmission has been observed in Singapore, leading to the government tightening restrictions.
(With inputs from NDTV and AFP.)
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