India’s IT ministry asks social media firms to remove reference to ‘Indian variant’ of COVID-19

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

India’s information technology (IT) ministry has written to all social media companies asking them to take down any content that refers to an “Indian variant” of the COVID-19, according to a letter issued on Friday which was seen by Reuters news agency.

“This is completely FALSE. There is no such variant of Covid-19 scientifically cited as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO has not associated the term ‘Indian Variant’ with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports,” Reuters quoted the letter, which is not public.

In the letter, the IT ministry asked the social media companies to “remove all the content” that names or implies “Indian variant” of the coronavirus.

On 11 May, the World Health Organization said that the coronavirus variant B.1.617, first identified in India last year, was being classified as a variant of global concern.

A day later, on 12 May, the Indian government issued a statement saying media reports using the term “Indian Variant” were without any basis, saying the WHO had classified the variant as just B.1.617.

Across the globe, COVID-19 variants have generically been referred to by doctors and health experts on the basis of where the are identified. This includes UK, South Africa and Brazil variants.