Boris Johnson Has Cancelled India Trade Trip After Covid-19 Surge And Variant Fears
Boris Johnson has cancelled his trip to India amid a surge in Covid-19 cases (PA)
The Prime Minister has cancelled a planned trip to India later this month following a surge of Covid cases in the country.
In a joint statement from India and the UK, officials said Johnson would "not be able to travel" to the country due to the worsening Covid outbreak.
Johnson was initially set to meet Indian leaders later this month, but had already scaled back the length of the visit from four days to just one due to fears over a surge in new infections and the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in the country.
India has seen a dramatic increase in Covid-19 cases over the last month, with more than 150,000 new infections being reported each day over the past three weeks.
The statement, released on Monday, said: "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."
A total of 77 cases of the new India variant have been discovered in the UK which is currently being treated as a "variant under investigation".
Despite experts suggestions the new strain could be re-designated as a more riskier "variant of concern", the Department for Transport, which decides which countries are placed on the travel "red list", said there were currently no plans to impose stricter travel restrictions on India.
And on Sunday, Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace said while the new variant was still being investigated there was not yet enough evidence to warrant a reclassification.
Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain, Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said the emergence of new variants could "pose a threat" to the government's lockdown easing roadmap.
"At the moment, we are still vulnerable, and some people in our population are still vulnerable – what I mean by that is the Indian variant, for example, certainly has a mutation like the ones that evade the best neutralising antibodies," he said.
"If you have a population where at least half of us have had zero or one dose of vaccine, some won’t have made a very good response to the vaccine, because perhaps they are very old or obese or unwell, we still have a very large vulnerable population who can still be caught out by variants like this."
The announcement of the cancellation comes after opposition MPs urged the Prime Minister to reconsider the trip, saying he should "set an example" to the public.
Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed told Sky's Sophy Ridge: "There are new variants emerging all around the world. The government is telling people don’t travel if you don’t absolutely have to travel. I can’t see why the prime minister can’t conduct his business with the Indian government by Zoom."