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Opinion | Covid pandemic: There is nothing called ‘Singapore variant’


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Opinion | Covid pandemic: There is nothing called ‘Singapore variant’

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal created a scare on Tuesday when he said that a new variant  of Covid-19 virus has been found in Singapore and that it could result in a third wave of pandemic in India. Kejriwal said, the new variant was extremely dangerous for children and asked the Centre to halt air services with Singapore immediately. Kejriwal’s comments raised the heckles of Singapore government on Wednesday, which called the Indian High Commissioner to register its strong protest. 

The Singapore Foreign Minister V. Balakrishnan tweeted: “Politicians should stick to facts! There is no “Singapore variant”. India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar tweeted: “…irresponsible statements from those who should know better can damage long-standing partnerships. So let me clarify – Delhi CM does not speak for India.” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted: “Kejriwal ji, international flights have been closed since March 2020. We do not even have an ‘air bubble’ arrangement with Singapore. There are only a few flights  – Vande Bharat Missions – to bring back Indians stranded there. After all, these are our own people.”

Kejriwal’s remarks triggered speculations about the third wave of pandemic. During the first wave, mostly elderly people lost their lives, during the current second wave even well-built, young men and women died, and what if the third wave targeted children? For some time, even I was worried over this line of thinking, but after going through facts, it appears that Kejriwal’s fears are unfounded. 

What exactly happened in Singapore? On Sunday, authorities in Singapore confirmed 38 locally-transmitted Covid cases, the highest daily count in eight months. Some of the cases involved children linked to a cluster at a tuition centre. On Monday, 21 locally transmitted fresh cases were reported. Soon afterwards, all primary and secondary schools and junior colleges were closed down till May 28 as a precautionary measure. The Singapore Health Minister said, “the B.1.617 strain, first detected in India, appears to affect children more”. He pointed out none of the affected children was seriously ill. 

The B.1.617 strain was first traced in India in October last year, and therefore, it would be incorrect to say that a Singapore variant of that strain has emerged. Singapore has a population of 57 lakhs and till now more than 61,000 Covid cases have been reported. Only 31 people died of Covid-19. Now that the virus has again reared its head, schools, gyms, shopping malls and restaurants have been closed down. Children below the age of 16 will now be vaccinated, but it would be incorrect to describe the virus as a ‘Singapore variant’. No new variant of Coronavirus has been found in Singapore. 

After listening to experts, I can safely say that there is no risk to our children from people coming to India from Singapore. Moreover, parents must get themselves vaccinated at the earliest so that they can provide protection to their children. I am hopeful about children, too, getting vaccinated in India in the near future.

Meanwhile, in India, the pandemic has taken a toll of more than 1,000 doctors. This should be a matter of grave concern for all of us. During the first wave, nearly 740 doctors died of Covid-19, and during the current second wave, 270 doctors have lost their lives in the last one month. According to Indian Medical Association, 20 to 25 doctors are dying of Covid almost daily. 

On Monday night, I got the sad news of the passing away of eminent cardiologist Dr K K Agrawal, who fought a long battle against Covid in AIIMS, Delhi. A nice and sensitive person, he devoted most of his time for social causes, and during the last one year, he had been educating people on social media about the dangers from Coronavirus. A Padma Shri awardee, Dr K K Agrawal also strived for spreading awareness about Covid vaccination. His passing away is a big blow to the medical fraternity. He had set up the Heart Care Foundation of India for the benefit of people having cardiac problems. 

Doctors who are working tirelessly in hospitals tending to Covid-19 patients are the real ‘angels’. I have heard from many people, who recovered in hospitals and returned to narrate stories about how doctors were toiling day and night. If doctors lose their lives, I would consider them as ‘martyrs’, and offer my humble tributes. 

A senior doctor told me, how during the first wave, they used to make patients recover and send them back to their homes, but during the current second wave, it has become a tough task to save lives. One doctor explained, when the virus enters a young person’s body, the infected person does not come to know about it because of strong physique and immunity. Sometimes, young people do not go for treatment, expecting to recover on their own within two or four days. By the time, they reach hospital in a critical stage, the deadly virus cells stick to their lungs like plastic, and it becomes a very difficult job to make them recover. I would therefore advise all young persons to consult a doctor the moment they notice the slightest symptoms. The sooner they consult a doctor, the better the chances for recovery.

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