Wednesday, October 27News That Matters

PM’s trip to India cancelled due to ‘current coronavirus situation’

The prime minister’s trip to India next week has been cancelled, Downing Street has confirmed.

India is experiencing a surge in cases of COVID-19, with more than 270,000 new infections recorded on Sunday.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting India PM Narendra Modi for bilateral talks during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France
Image: Boris Johnson meets Narendra Modi at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France in 2019

New Delhi, the capital, has entered a week-long lockdown, while there are fears about the emergence of a new variant of the virus in the country.

So far, 77 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been found in the UK.

Announcing the decision, the British and Indian governments said in a joint statement: “In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week.

“Instead, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India.

“They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year.”

Mr Johnson said it was “only sensible” to scrap the trip “given what’s happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there”.

The PM continued: “Countries around the world including our own have been through this. I think everybody’s got a massive amount of sympathy with India, what they’re going through.

“And I just want to stress that this is, we’re going to be going back, the relationship between the UK and India is of huge importance, and I’ll be talking to Narendra Modi on Monday, we’ll be trying to do as much as we can, virtually.

“Of course it will be frustrating, but we’ll try and replicate as much as we can remotely, and then look forward to doing it in person as and when circumstances allow, and hopefully before the Cop summit in November and hopefully we’ll get Narendra Modi over for the G7 in June.”

Asked why India had not yet been added to the UK’s travel red list given its COVID situation, Mr Johnson said: “The red list is very much a matter for the independent UK Health Security Agency – they will have to take that decision.”

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Adding India to the red list would mean incoming travellers would be subject to a hotel quarantine.

Downing Street said a variety of factors led to the trip being cancelled.

The PM’s spokesman said: “It was a joint decision. We have spoken to our Indian counterparts and both the prime minister and Prime Minister Modi agreed that in the current situation it wasn’t right for the trip to go ahead – there wasn’t one single factor.”

Pushed on what those factors were, the spokesman cited the “epidemiology” in India but said he would provide a full list “but obviously the situation is challenging over there”.

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Asked about the potential for India to be added to the red list, he said: “The decision isn’t triggered at all by the prime minister’s trip; the decision takes into account a number of factors which the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre) predominantly lead on and then feed into government, and that’s considered in the normal way.

“I understand the interest in the red list but I don’t think it’s right for me to speculate on when the JBC and others are going to be feeding in that information.”

The PM’s trip was first scheduled for January, but was delayed due to England’s third lockdown.

Originally envisaged as a four-day trip, it was cut back last week to just one day in Delhi, but has now been scrapped altogether.