Boris Johnson has cancelled his visit to Delhi next week, as the coronavirus crisis worsens in India and concerns grow over a new variant there.
The Prime Minister’s already-curtailed trip was scrapped altogether on Monday, with plans for him to instead speak to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi later in the month.
Downing Street issued a joint statement from the British and Indian governments.
“In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week,” the statement said.
“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.”
It came as New Delhi entered a week-long lockdown to tackle a surge in cases to prevent a collapse of the capital’s health system.
Johnson’s visit – to foster close ties as part of Britain’s foreign policy “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific – was first scheduled for January, but was delayed due to the UK’s winter wave of infections.
A four-day trip was then scheduled to begin on Monday before being cut back last week to just one day in Delhi.
But Labour’s shadow communities secretary Steve Reed had been among those saying it should be cancelled altogether.
“There are new variants emerging all around the world, the Government is telling people don’t travel if you don’t have to absolutely travel and I can’t see why the Prime Minister can’t conduct his business with the Indian government by Zoom,” the MP told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday.