Kejriwal urges Centre to cancel flights from Singapore over virus strain

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday appealed to the Central government to immediately cancel all air services with Singapore, saying a new strain of coronavirus there is said to be “very dangerous” for children.

Responding to the chief minister’s appeal, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said only a few flights are being operated between the two countries under the government’s Vande Bharat Mission to bring stranded Indians back, and added that “all precautions are being taken”.

Taking to Twitter, Kejriwal on Tuesday said the new strain of coronavirus could invade India in the form of a third wave.

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“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,” the chief minister said in a tweet in Hindi.

While there is no known Singapore strain of the coronavirus or any known to have originated in the city-State, Kejriwal appeared to be referring to a media report on Monday.

The report had mentioned the threat posed to Singapore’s children by the variant first detected in India.

Reacting to the media report, Dr V K Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog, told a briefing on Tuesday, “We are examining it”.

Aviation Minister Puri replied to the Delhi CM’s tweet, saying, “Kejriwal ji, all international flights have been stopped since March 2020. We have no air bubble with Singapore either.”

Only a few flights are being operated between the two countries under Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians stuck there, he added.

“We are still keeping an eye on the situation. All precautions are being taken,” Puri noted.

The AAP leader’s tweet also prompted political reactions from rival parties, with the Delhi BJP accusing Kejriwal of creating panic among people, and the Congress berating him for allegedly shirking his own responsibility on how to counter a new variant of the virus.

It seems, the BJP alleged, the chief minister doesn’t check facts before speaking or he intentionally speaks to create controversy.

“CM Kejriwal ignored the fact that Covid Strain B.1.617 which has now been found in Singapore has been active in India since March 2021 especially in Maharashtra. One fails to understand why Arvind Kejriwal is now trying to create panic for this strain of Covid,” Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said in a statement.

Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar said in a statement, “As is his habit, the CM was trying to shirk his own responsibility on how to counter a new Singapore variant of the Covid virus, which will hit children hard, by taking expert opinion immediately, to take precautionary measures, he was tweeting to the Centre to stop all international flights from Singapore, which is an easy way out for him, for not doing any work.”

Earlier this month, the chief minister had said Delhi should prepare for a third wave of COVID-19.

The national capital on Tuesday reported 4,482 Covid-19 cases, the lowest single-day rise since April 5, and 265 fatalities, while the positivity rate dipped to 6.89 per cent.

Delhi had reported 4,524 cases and 340 fatalities on Monday, while the positivity rate was 8.42 per cent.

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