New Delhi: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday cancelled his visit to India scheduled for April 26 and the UK added India to its Covid-19 travel "red list", effectively banning all travel from the country and making a 10-day hotel quarantine compulsory for UK residents arriving in the country. A BBC report quoted Mr Johnson as saying it was “only sensible” to cancel the visit in view of the raging pandemic in India which is battling a ferocious second wave of the Covid pandemic.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the move to put India on its "red list" in the House of Commons as he revealed that 103 cases of the so-called "Indian variant" had been identified in the UK, of which the "vast majority have links to international travel".
He said that samples of that variant have been analysed to see if the new variant has any "concerning characteristics", such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.
"After studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, we've made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list," the minister told MPs.
"This means anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen... cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days," he said. The new rules, which Mr Hancock said have not been taken lightly, will come into force from Friday. The "red list" has around 40 badly hit nations.
This is the second time in three months that the British PM has cancelled his visit to India. He was originally scheduled to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day on January 26 this year but cancelled his visit in early January due to the raging pandemic then in Britain.
India, which has been reporting more than 2,00,000 cases daily, confirmed the “mutually agreed” cancellation “in view of the prevailing Covid situation” and said a “virtual meeting” would be held “in the coming days to launch plans for a transformed India-UK relationship”. It added that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the British PM “attach the highest importance to taking the India-UK partnership to its fullest potential”.
Bilateral political ties between the two nations have strengthened enormously under PM Modi and Mr Johnson. In December last year, the foreign ministers of the two nations had held discussions in New Delhi on five broad themes — connecting people, trade, defence and security, climate and health including the cooperation on the Covid vaccines, with both nations also “agreeing on key elements of a 10 year India-UK roadmap”.