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British PM Boris Johnson cancels trip to India over surge in COVID-19 cases

By
Don Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on March 20. Photo by Julian Simmonds/EPA-EFE
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on March 20. Photo by Julian Simmonds/EPA-EFE

April 19 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has canceled a trip to India because of a surge in COVID-19 cases there, officials in London said Monday.

Johnson was planning to travel to India on April 26 for four days to attend a series of meetings with government officials.

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Johnson and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now meet virtually to discuss a range of issues, including a possible post-Brexit trade agreement, the officials said.

Coronavirus cases in India have surged and New Delhi will begin a week-long lockdown on Monday night. The new cases from a variant first detected in India represents a doubling of new infections compared to an earlier peak last September.

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India is struggling to contain the virus and beds and oxygen at hospitals are in short supply. Some scientists have said the country should be subject to the strictest British travel restrictions, called the "red list."

The visit, which was rescheduled in January due to a British lockdown, would have been Johnson's first major overseas trip since he took office in mid-2019.

Downing Street released a statement saying Modi and Johnson would speak later this month to "launch their ambitious plans" for Britain-India relations. They will remain in regular contact and meet in person later this year, it added.

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"The red list is very much a matter for the independent U.K. 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," Johnson said, according to The Guardian.

"I do think it's only sensible to postpone, given what's happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there."

Labor Party officials had previously argued that Johnson's India trip should be canceled and held virtually. A senior Conservative Party official also told the BBC it would have been "absurd" for Johnson to go to India now.

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National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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