Recently, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal commented that the new Singapore strain could mark the start of the third wave of Covid-19 in the country and requested the Central government to identify vaccines for children to tackle the novel coronavirus.
He said that to and fro air services with Singapore should also be suspended with immediate effect. Now, it has led to a diplomatic row.
In response, Singapore admonished that new variants discovered in India affected children more, as the city-state decided to shut most schools from this week and planned to vaccinate teenagers.
External Affairs Minister of India, S Jaishankar, stepped in by stating that CM Kejriwal’s remarks were “irresponsible” and did not speak for India.
It said that there is no Singapore variant. The strain is B.1.617.2, which “originated” in India. Singapore’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan mentioned, “Politicians should stick to facts!” Its High commissioner Simon Wong warned that their country reserves the right to invoke a domestic fake news law to avoid the spread of misinformation.
Singapore has continued dispatching medical assistance in a spirit of working together to tackle the pandemic, which knows no political colour or boundary, he remarked.
Defending CM Kejriwal’s statement, Deputy CM of Delhi, Manish Sisodia, said that the central government is worried about its image and international reputation and is negligent when it comes to the threat children of the nation. He added, “If only the government could ensure import of vaccines from other nations as efficiently and quickly as it responded to Arvind Kejriwal’s comment, India would face no shortage of vaccines.”
A few years back to this incident, EAM Jaishankar had appreciated Singapore as a ‘solid’ partner of India in the battle against Covid-19 and stated CM Kejriwal’s statements held the capacity to “damage long-standing partnerships”.
“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,” he further said.
Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri stated India does not have an air bubble with Singapore and so all international flight services between India and Singapore are already discontinued. Only flights under Vande Bharat Mission are running.
According to the EAM spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, the Singapore Government called in the High Commissioner of India to send a solid refusal to Delhi CM’s tweet on “Singapore variant”. The High Commissioner told them that the Delhi CM had no competence to declare on Covid variants or civil aviation policy officially.
“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 CM (Delhi). However, we’re satisfied with GoI’s clarification,” Wong said.
According to the World Health Organization, a strain does not get names related to geographical areas. The practice emphasises only the scientific aspects of tackling a pandemic instead of raising fingers at anyone.
It had issued a guideline in 2015 that recommended against naming diseases, viruses or variants after the countries from which they originate as it could stigmatise the people residing there.