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India instructs social media companies to remove any content that refers to “Indian variant” of Covid-19

The Indian government instructed social media companies to remove any content that refers to the “Indian variant” of Covid-19.

The IT ministry said the World Health Organization (WHO) listed the variant as B.1.617 and any reference to “Indian” was false.

Geographical terms have been used to describe a number of other variants, including the UK and Brazil.

Platforms were asked to “remove all the content that names, refers to, or implies ‘Indian variant’ of coronavirus from your platform immediately”, the Press Trust of India reported.

“It has come to our knowledge that a false statement is being circulated online which implies that an ‘Indian variant’ of coronavirus is spreading across the countries. This is completely FALSE,” AFP reported quoting a government letter.

The note says that the World Health Organization (WHO) has “not associated the term ‘Indian variant’ with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports”.

B.1.617, a more transmissible variant, was first detected in India last year and has spread to dozens of countries. A number of nations have severely restricted arrivals from India.

The government last month also ordered Twitter to remove posts critical of some of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the pandemic.

The country has been hit hard by the new variant since late March and is now second only to the US in terms of overall infections, at more than 26 million.

Covid-related deaths are close to 300,000, behind only the US and Brazil, although some experts believe India’s fatalities could be considerably higher.