Boris Johnson will still visit India despite fears over a variant first identified there

16 April 2021, 19:32

Boris Johnson's visit to India will still go ahead
Boris Johnson's visit to India will still go ahead . Picture: PA

By Harriet Whitehead

Boris Johnson's visit to India will still go ahead, despite the country having had more than 13.9 million confirmed cases.

The Prime Minister had already made modifications to his trip to India at the end of April, due to the country's worsening coronavirus situation.

He was due to spend four days there at the end of the month but decided the "bulk" of the meetings could be fitted into one day.

Public Health England (PHE) reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been found in England, as well as four cases in Scotland, which an expert said could be a cause for concern.

The figures come from the latest update of PHE's surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK, based on data up to April 7.

In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deaths. Nonetheless, Downing Street has insisted the visit will go ahead.

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Officials have currently designated it a "variant under investigation" (VUI) rather than a "variant of concern" (VOC), such as the Manaus (Brazil) or South African variants.

A No 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "The Prime Minister's visit is still happening later this month.

"We have said that the programme will be slightly shorter than it will have been, and you can expect the main body of his programme to take place on Monday April 26.

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"As you would expect, safety is obviously important and is a priority for us on this trip, which is why we will make sure that all elements of the visit are Covid-secure."

The country is not currently on the Government's "red list" for travel, which sees people who have been in those countries in the previous 10 days refused entry to the UK.

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Officials said there is currently no evidence to suggest that disease from the newly identified variant is more serious than previous ones, nor is there current evidence to suggest vaccines are less likely to work against it.

It is understood that the cases detected in England are dispersed across different parts of the country and many are linked to international travel, but investigations are under way.