Boris Johnson cancels India trip amid COVID surge

Marco Green
April 19, 2021

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

The UK government had hoped the visit - billed as the PM's first major overseas trip since taking office - would boost trade and investment ties, and move the two countries closer to securing a post-Brexit trade agreement.

India has been reporting more than 200,000 cases daily since 15 April.

Earlier, the British PM was forced to cancel his trip as the chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations in January this year following a surge in Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom, and had then promised to visit India before the G-7 summit in June.

He had been facing mounting pressure over the scheduled visit with opposition Labour Party questioning why the UK Prime Minister can not meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi online to discuss bilateral relations.

British health officials said on Sunday they were investigating a COVID-19 variant originating in India, but as yet they did not have enough evidence to classify it is as a variant of concern.

However, the spread of a Covid variant in India had led some to suggest the trip should not go ahead. The India-UK Partnership in Climate Action, clean energy and health care is geared for mutual benefit and a better world, it added.

The decision was arrived at mutually, the statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.

Asked about his cancelled India visit, the PM said it was "frustrating" but "Narendra Modi and I have basically come to the conclusion that, very sadly, I won't be able to go ahead with the trip. So many of us do that these days and I think the Prime Minister, all of us in public life, need to try and set an example so I'd much rather the Prime Minister did it by Zoom than by travelling to India", said Labour Party's Shadow Communities Secretary Steve Reed. His 26 April visit was announced by his office last month.

One senior Conservative also told the BBC it would have been "absurd" for the trip go ahead.

"They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year", it said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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