G7 visit: India's foreign minister exposed to potential Covid cases during trip to UK

5 May 2021, 10:08 | Updated: 5 May 2021, 12:43

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, at a press conference with India's foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar following a meeting in London on Monday
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, at a press conference with India's foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar following a meeting in London on Monday. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

India's foreign minister has been forced to pull out of attending this week's G7 meeting in person after two positive coronavirus cases were detected in the country's travelling delegation.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who has not tested positive, appeared virtually at the meeting of G7 foreign ministers on Wednesday morning.

Although India is not a G7 member, it had been invited to attend as a guest.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has insisted questions need to be answered following the positive tests, adding: "It is a reminder of how vigilant we need to be about our borders."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said "we are all having to adapt in agile ways" as he welcomed Mr Jaishankar, who appeared on a screen, to the Lancaster House summit room.

Boris Johnson has said he will have a "Zoom exchange" with Mr Jaishankar later as the Prime Minister emphasised the "very important relationship" with India and the UK's G7 partners.

The Indian foreign minister earlier tweeted: "Was made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases.

"As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode.

"That will be the case with the G7 meeting today as well."

The entire Indian delegation has reportedly gone into self-isolation.

During a campaign visit to Pontefract, West Yorkshire, Sir Keir told reporters: "I do think we need to ask questions about how this happened, if only to make sure it is not repeated.

"It is a reminder of how vigilant we need to be about our borders - we've been challenging government on this for some months.

"Let's get to the bottom of how this happened - we cannot have a repeat."

The delegation has had other meetings this week but Public Health England has assessed that social distancing and mask-wearing meant there is no need for any further action.

Home Secretary Priti Patel met the Indian foreign minister on Tuesday, but she has not been told to self-isolate.

Asked if it was a mistake to hold the foreign ministers' meeting in person, Mr Johnson told reporters: "I think it's very important to try to continue as much business as you can as a Government.

"I will be seeing the Indian foreign minister later this afternoon and that will be a Zoom exchange, I'm given to understand."

There are strict coronavirus security measures in place at the summit, which is the first face-to-face meeting of G7 foreign ministers for more than two years.

A senior UK diplomat said: "We deeply regret that Foreign Minister Dr Jaishankar will be unable to attend the meeting today in person and will now attend virtually, but this is exactly why we have put in place strict Covid protocols and daily testing."

India has experienced a huge rise in coronavirus cases and deaths in recent weeks, believed to be partly driven by a new variant.

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