G7 meet: 2 Indian delegation members test positive for Covid-19 in London
The Indian delegation led by external affairs minister S Jaishankar to the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in London was self-isolating on Wednesday after two members tested positive for Covid-19.
Jaishankar tweeted that he had become aware of “exposure to possible Covid positive cases” and would conduct all his engagements in London virtually, including participation in the G7 foreign ministers meet on Wednesday.
Public Health England, which deals with issues such as infectious diseases, asked the entire Indian delegation to self-isolate, according to BBC. A British official confirmed two positive tests among the Indian delegation. British rules require a 10-day self-isolation period.
“Was made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases. As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode. That will be the case with the G7 Meeting today as well,” said a tweet by Jaishankar, who is on his first foreign trip after India was hit by a devastating second wave of infections.
The reports of the Indian delegation members testing positive immediately triggered Covid-19 scare at the G7 meeting. There were also questions as to whether members of other delegations had been exposed in any manner.
India is not a member of the G7 and was invited to the meeting as a guest along with Australia, South Korea, South Africa and the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
British authorities had put in place strict Covid-secure measures for the meeting, which was billed by the UK as a chance to restart in-person diplomacy. There are daily Covid-19 tests throughout the meeting, including self-test kits and an on-site testing facility, strict guidelines on social distancing, and the size of delegations were limited. The delegates are separated by perspex screens during talks.
Those at the top of the external affairs ministry have all been vaccinated and undergo regular tests for Covid-19 every week. However, there have been several cases of Coronavirus infections among junior and middle-ranking officials of the ministry in New Delhi in recent weeks.
The G7 foreign ministers meeting is a precursor to the main summit to be held at the rural English resort of Cornwall in June. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited to the summit as a guest by his UK counterpart Boris Johnson.
The Indian delegation had not attended any event at the main venue at Lancaster House, and meetings scheduled for Wednesday went ahead as planned. British foreign minister Dominic Raab greeted and fist-bumped other G7 members as they arrived at the venue.
“We deeply regret that Jaishankar will be unable to attend the meeting today in person,” a senior UK diplomat was quoted as saying by Reuters. “This is exactly why we have put in place strict Covid protocols and daily testing.”
Jaishankar met British interior minister Priti Patel on Tuesday and they signed the Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement to facilitate legal travel. Patel didn’t have to self-isolate because the meeting was held in line with existing rules, and both ministers were wearing masks.
Jaishankar held bilateral meetings in London with US secretary of state Antony Blinken, South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and a trilateral meeting with Australian foreign minister Marise Payne and French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.