MFA expresses 'concerns' to India High Commissioner over Delhi chief minister's comment on 'Singapore' COVID-19 variant

MFA expresses 'concerns' to India High Commissioner over Delhi chief minister's comment on 'Singapore' COVID-19 variant

Virus Outbreak India
A heath worker in protective suit collects swab samples of people to test for COVID-19 in a slum area in India on May 17, 2021. (Photo: AP/Anupam Nath)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has expressed its concerns to India's High Commissioner over comments made by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal about a purported COVID-19 variant found in Singapore.

In a press statement on Wednesday (May 19), MFA said it "regrets the unfounded assertions made on Facebook and Twitter" by Mr Kejriwal that a "variant of COVID-19 found in Singapore was particularly harmful to children and could cause a third wave of infections in India". 

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

"MFA met the High Commissioner of India P Kumaran this morning to express these concerns."

READ: 'No truth' in India news reports claiming Singapore variant of COVID-19 virus - MOH

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Mr Kejriwal's comment was made on Tuesday. On the same day, Singapore's Health Ministry said that there was "no truth whatsoever" in the assertion, which was carried by Indian news outlets Hindustan Times and NDTV.

As highlighted by MOH, there is no "Singapore variant", MFA also said. "The strain prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is the B16172 variant, which was first detected in India."

Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also responded to Mr Kejriwal's tweet on Wednesday morning:

Posting on Twitter on Wednesday, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Mr Kejriwal's comments were "irresponsible" and that the chief minister "does not speak for India". 

"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," said Dr Jaishankar.

"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.”

Dr Balakrishnan responded to these tweets, thanking Dr Jaishankar and urging focus on "resolving the situation in our respective countries and helping one another".

"Nobody is safe until everyone is safe," he said. 

Dr Jaishankar's tweets were reproduced on the High Commission of India's Facebook page and the Ministry of External Affairs' official spokesperson also tweeted: "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-19 variants or civil aviation policy."

In the media reports in India, Mr Kejriwal was cited as urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to immediately cancel air services with Singapore and prioritise the vaccination of children.

Source: CNA/jt(ac)

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