LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday cancelled a planned trip to India later this month, citing the need to oversee the COVID-19 pandemic response at home.
“The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.
“In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the Prime Minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus,” the spokeswoman added.
In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the Prime Minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus: UK Government https://t.co/2cOdJjXfUZ
— ANI (@ANI) January 5, 2021
It may be noted that Johnson was scheduled to visit India on 26 January for the Republic Day celebrations. The UK Prime Minister was invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day Parade.
The coronavirus infection has been spreading in the UK for some time owing to a large extent to a new mutant of the virus, which has been found to be more infectious.
Amid all this, Britain began its third COVID-19 lockdown on Tuesday with citizens under orders to stay at home and the government calling for one last major national effort to stem the virus before mass vaccinations turn the tide.
The lockdown comes as the surge of a new strain of the virus that is said to be more infectious threatens to overwhelm hospitals, despite the rollout of two vaccines, including the UK’s own Oxford University/AstraZeneca shot from Monday, bringing hopes of beating the virus in the coming months.
Overall, Britain has been among the worst hit in the world by the outbreak, with some 2.7 million cases and 75,431 deaths. Johnson was widely criticised for hesitating too long about the measures, particularly school closures.