Covid spike: UK PM Johnson’s visit to India cancelled

The sharp spike in Covid-19 infections in India has taken its diplomatic toll with the cancellation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s planned visit to New Delhi.

“In view of the prevailing Covid situation, it has been decided by mutual agreement that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will not visit India next week,” said India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi in response to questions on Mr Johnson’s planned visit to India April 25-26.

“The two sides will be holding a virtual meeting in the coming days to launch plans for a transformed India-U.K. relationship,” said the spokesperson.

“Both leaders attach the highest importance to taking the India-U.K. partnership to its fullest potential and propose to remain in close touch in this regard and look forward to an in-person meeting later in the year.”

Mr Johnson was expected to come on his maiden visit to India April 25-26 for a short visit. But the sudden spike in Covid-19 infections and the discovery of a more infectious variant of coronavirus in India compelled the two sides to revisit the plan and cancel the much-heralded visit.

Britain’s Opposition Labour Party had joined the chorus of protests, calling for the cancellation of Johnson’s visit.

Earlier, Downing Street had confirmed a much shorter schedule for the UK prime minister’s visit, with most of the programme including talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set for a day-long agenda on Monday, April 26.