Singapore invokes misinformation law after Kejriwal’s comments

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Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal on Tuesday tweeted about an alleged “new form” of COVID-19 in Singapore and claimed it is very dangerous for children, reports Asian Lite News

Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday invoked its anti-misinformation law, the POFMA or Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who tweeted about the coronavirus variant from Singapore.

The MOH instructed the POFMA Office to issue General Correction Directions to Facebook, Twitter and SPH Magazines Pte Ltd (HardwareZone forum), read MOH statement. 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.

Under this, the social media giants will be required to make corrections and clarifications are regarding falsehoods on the “Singapore” strain.

The correction notice of MOH reads, “There is no new “Singapore” variant of COVID 19. Neither is there evidence of any COVID-19 variant that is ‘extremely dangerous for kids.”

It further reads that “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.”

Earlier Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal on Tuesday tweeted about an alleged “new form” of COVID-19 in Singapore and claimed it is very dangerous for children.

“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,” Kejriwal had said.

Kejriwal’s remarks evoked responses and caused some alarm.

Singapore High Commissioner Simon Wong on Wednesday came down heavily on Arvind Kejriwal for his tweet on an alleged dangerous variant of COVID-19, saying that Singapore reserves the right to invoke his country’s online fake news Act on the Delhi Chief Minister’s assertions.

The Indian envoy to Singapore was also summoned by the country’s foreign ministry after which he clarified that Delhi CM has no competence to pronounce on COVID variants or civil aviation policy.

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Later, the Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also commented on the matter. Jaishankar asserted that Kejriwal doesn’t speak for India.

Jaishankar also tweeted tagging foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan, “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.”

Earlier, foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan objected to the Delhi chief minister’s tweet.

“Politicians should stick to facts! There is no “Singapore variant”,” Balakrishnan responded to the tweet, quoting Kejriwal.

Separately, a statement from Singapore’s ministry of foreign affairs had said, “MFA regrets the unfounded assertions made on Facebook and Twitter by chief minister of Delhi, Arvind 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. MFA met the High Commissioner of India P. Kumaran this morning to express these concerns. As highlighted by MOH in its press release of 18 May 2021, there is no “Singapore variant”. The strain prevalent in many of the Covid-19 cases in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which was first detected in India.”

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi informed on Twitter that the Singapore government had called in India’s high commissioner today to convey its strong objection to Delhi CM’s tweet on the ‘Singapore variant’. “High commissioner clarified that Delhi CM had no competence to pronounce on Covid variants or civil aviation policy,” he tweeted.

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