Boris Johnson cancels India trip amid fears of 'double-mutation' variant

19 April 2021, 09:50 | Updated: 19 April 2021, 10:55

Boris Johnson has cancelled his trip to India (pictured during a previous trip)
Boris Johnson has cancelled his trip to India (pictured during a previous trip). Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has been forced to cancel his forthcoming trip to India amid the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.

A joint statement released by both governments 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.”

Read more: WHO adviser - UK must put India on travel red list amid variant concerns

It comes amid growing fears of a double mutation variant which has two new significant mutations in the spike protein which helps it infect cells and evade the immune system.

Figures released by Public Health England (PHE) at the weekend have shown there have been 73 cases found in England and another four in Scotland.

Boris Johnson has said it is "only sensible" to cancel his trip to India given the coronavirus situation there, adding it is up to the UK Health Security Agency whether to add the nation to the travel "red list".

During a visit to Gloucestershire, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: "The red list is very much a matter for the independent UK Health Security Agency - they will have to take that decision.

"But Narendra Modi and I have basically come to the conclusion that, very sadly, I won't be able to go ahead with the trip. I do think it's only sensible to postpone, given what's happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there.

"Countries around the world including our own have been through this. I think everybody's got a massive amount of sympathy with India, what they're going through.

"And I just want to stress that this is, we're going to be going back, the relationship between the UK and India is of huge importance, and I'll be talking to Narendra Modi on Monday, we'll be trying to do as much as we can, virtually.

"Of course it will be frustrating, but we'll try and replicate as much as we can remotely, and then look forward to doing it in person as and when circumstances allow, and hopefully before the Cop summit in November and hopefully we'll get Narendra Modi over for the G7 in June."

Boris Johnson has said it is "only sensible" to cancel his trip to India given the coronavirus situation there,
Boris Johnson has said it is "only sensible" to cancel his trip to India given the coronavirus situation there,. Picture: PA

Environment Minister George Eustice told LBC on Sunday "for now we are okay" with India not on the 'red travel list' despite the mutation being found in the UK.

Whilst speaking to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday show, Environment Minister George Eustice was questioned over why India is not yet on the UK's red list of countries to travel to.

The minister explained: "These things are kept under regular review, and there are around 30 countries currently on the list.

"I know that Grant Shapps and the other members of the Covid sub-committee that look at this will review it."And if we get scientific advice that India should be on the red list then we will not hesitate to do that. But at the moment, we haven't had such a recommendation."

He continued: "Obviously, we take a highly precautionary approach on all travel, so we ban people from travelling for the purposes of a holiday, and everyone arriving must have a pre-departure Covid test 72 hours before arriving and then must quarantine at home for ten days and have two tests within that time.

"I think for now we are okay, but should the advice change we will change."

More to follow...