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When there was racial tension in Singapore amidst controversy over Delta variant origin

By Atanu Roy* 

“What is there in a name”, a popular phrase originated from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". May be Shakespeare never imagined on the looming controversy surrounding Covid B1617 variant. B1617 variant has been the most contentious and ravaging Covid-19 variant from the very outset. A series of claims and counter claims ensured, whether B1617 variant originated in Singapore or India.
Some called it Singapore-Variant, some Indian-Variant and the World Health Organisation (WHO) finally devised a naming scheme with Greek alphabets which labelled it as Delta variant, the ‘variant of concern’ as per the WHO. 
Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, had tweeted to flag his concern over a "new form of corona found in Singapore", calling on the Indian government to cancel flights from Singapore. The variant he was referring, was in fact, first found in India, as confirmed by the WHO.
The Delta variant is considered more easily transmitted from human to human, and was what fuelled the massive spread of the virus in India. This variant was first picked up in India last October, but is believed to have made its way to Singapore and other countries later.
Kejriwal did not “speak for India”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar declared after Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan objected to his claim that a highly infectious variant of COVID-19 affecting children came from Singapore. Jaishankar’s comment came after Singapore summoned the Indian envoy to protest Kejriwal’s remarks.
Singapore is a multiracial country, proportions of races are Chinese 76%, Malay 15% , Indian 7.5% , Others 1.5%. Total population of 5.6 million live in a complete racial and religious harmony.
Singapore is quite popular among expats (there are over 1.5 million), one will be able to meet people from around the world when one lives here.
Citizens of different races live at peace and in harmony with one another. The children and young people have the benefit of studying together in integrated schools and living in public housing, where people across different races live together. The workplaces are racially diverse. There are no ghettos in Singapore. The legal system protects the fabric of racial harmony.
Singapore allowed expats intake from different countries including India, as such, even after the Delta Variant surfaced. Proper precautions were in place, but some slippage, due to the unique nature of the Delta variant, caused an influx of expats carrying B1617, Delta variant. It led to some Delta clusters, and government had a trying time to contain the spread.
The rapid spread of Delta variant caused some panic, and Singapore witnessed some racial tensions, leading to unfortunate incidents. An Indian woman was confronted by a Chinese man for not wearing her face mask properly while brisk-walking. The man abused her verbally, using a racial slur, and kicked her.
In another incident, a Chinese man confronted a mixed-race couple in Orchard Road, telling them that it was a disgrace for a Chinese girl and an Indian man to be together. The government has taken adequate steps to stop further repeat of any such racial offensive, as it feels that, there is simply no justification for racist attacks, as simple as that.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, in October 2020, has become by far the most dominant strain in many countries. It now accounts for almost all new Covid-19 cases in the US, Britain, Russia, Germany, South Africa and Singapore, among other countries.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus has played havoc with many governments' plans to return life to some sense of normality. Fresh outbreaks fuelled by the highly infectious strain have forced major cities in China, Australia, the Philippines and elsewhere back into lockdown and spurred the authorities, particularly in Asia, to reimpose harsh restrictions as low vaccination rates leave people vulnerable to Covid-19.
Economies have taken a hit as manufacturing hubs like Thailand and Vietnam see their supply chains interrupted. Factories making goods for global brands are halting work and potentially missing out on the crucial holiday shopping season in major markets.
The most worrying, findings, till date are the diminishing efficacies of the vaccines to counter Delta and people with completed vaccines are getting hit, though in small numbers, as compared with the non-vaccinated.
To conclude, Delta variant has created controversies, as to where it originated, how it got originated and till date we don’t have a clear picture of its nature and directions.
---
*Belonging to Kolkata, relocated to Singapore in 1997, chartered accountant, heading an IT outfit

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