British PM cancels his visit amid surge; India on UK’s travel ‘red list’
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called off a planned visit to India this week because of the Covid-19 situation – the second time this year he has deferred a trip to the country due to the pandemic.
The UK government had decided last week to reduce the length of Johnson’s visit following discussions with the Indian side. The Indian mission in London had announced the visit was to begin on April 25.
“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 [Narendra] Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India,” said a spokesperson for the UK prime minister’s office.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the decision to call off the visit was made by mutual agreement.
“The two sides will be holding a virtual meeting in the coming days to launch plans for a transformed India-UK relationship,” he said.
Hours after the announcement, UK secretary of state for health Matt Hancock told Parliament the government included India in the “red list” of countries facing travel restrictions.
Johnson told reporters in London that he and Modi had “basically come to the conclusion that, very sadly, I won’t be able to go ahead with the trip”. He added, “I do think it’s only sensible to postpone given what’s happening in India – the shape of the pandemic there.”
He said the UK’s relationship with India is of “huge importance” and that he would hold a virtual meeting with Modi on April 26.
“We’ll be trying to do as much as we can virtually...look forward to doing it in person as and when circumstances allow and hopefully before the [COP26] Summit in November and hopefully we’ll get Narendra Modi over for the G7 in June,” he said.
In January, Johnson cancelled a visit to India to be chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations in order to remain in Britain to focus on his government’s response to a new Coronavirus variant that was spreading rapidly in the country at the time.