Hours after announcing a fresh lockdown in the United Kingdom to check the threat of new strain of Coronavirus that has already affected thousands of people in the country, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled his visit to India.
Johnson was invited to be the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi and last month, he accepted to visit the country. This was supposed to be Johnson’s first bilateral visit after the UK’s departure from the European Union in December.
“The prime minister spoke to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned,” read a statement from his Downing Street office.
“In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new Coronavirus variant is spreading, the Prime Minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus,” the statement read.
“The leaders underlined their shared commitment to the bilateral relationship and to continuing to build on the close collaboration between our countries — including in response to the pandemic,” it added.
“The Prime Minister said that he hopes to be able to visit India in the first half of 2021, and ahead of the UK’s G7 Summit that Prime Minister Modi is due to attend as a guest,” his office said.
The UK government announced a complete lockdown for England’s 56 million people, which could last until mid-February, following a spurt in Coronavirus cases which saw 80,000 fresh infections on a single day in the end of December. If unchecked, the National Health Service will be overwhelmed, Mr Johnson had said, while declaring a lockdown that came into effect from Monday night.
Meanwhile, the UK strain of virus has already reached India, with 58 people testing positive so far. The Union health ministry on Tuesday announced 20 fresh infections.
Mr Johnson is the second British Prime Minister to attend the Republic Day parade as the Chief Guest after his predecessor John Major in 1993.