UK PM cancels R-Day India visit citing new coronavirus strain
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has canceled his visit to India for the Republic Day event, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday. Johnson was expected to attend India's 72nd Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on January 26. The British PM has cited the need to handle the COVID-19 response at home as the reason for his inability to attend the celebrations.
The spokesperson said, "In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the PM said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the response to the virus." Johnson spoke to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to express his regret on Tuesday morning, they said.
India had invited Johnson to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations this year. Last month, it was announced that he had accepted the invitation, describing it as a "great honor." Johnson had also invited Modi to join the UK-hosted G7 summit.
Earlier in September, the UK detected a new strain of the coronavirus, which is said to be as much as "70% more infectious." In light of the mutated strain, Johnson on Monday announced that nearly 56 million people in England will return to a full lockdown. The lockdown comes into effect from Wednesday and will possibly remain enforced till mid-February.
Several countries, including India, have imposed travel restrictions on the UK. India had suspended all flights to and from the UK from December 22 and looks forward to their regulated resumption January 8 onward. Thirty flights will operate every week—including 15 each by the Indian and UK carriers—between January 8 and 23. India has also released fresh surveillance guidelines for the mutated strain.
In India, 58 people have been found to be carrying the mutated strain of the coronavirus, according to the latest figures furnished by the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday. Reportedly, all those who tested positive had either returned from the UK or came in close contact with someone who did. Those infected have been kept in isolation, while their close contacts have been quarantined.