POLITICS
16/04/2021 13:00 BST

Boris Johnson Will Go To India Despite Soaring Covid Cases And New Variant Fears

PM is due to meet Narendra Modi as part of shortened trip as the UK aims to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.

Aaron ChownPA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson 

Boris Johnson’s visit to India will go ahead despite its soaring coronavirus cases and fears a new variant has taken hold, Downing Street has said. 

No.10 has said the prime minister’s trip will be Covid-secure and shorter, but poured cold water on suggestions the country was being kept off the travel “red list” for political reasons. 

Johnson is due to meet controversial Indian PM Narendra Modi as he aims to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with his administration. 

India’s daily Covid case rate is now over the 200,000 mark, with curfews and weekend lockdowns reinstated in some regions. 

There is also growing concerns about a new coronavirus variant first detected in the country.

Officials have designated the new strain a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the Manaus (Brazil) or South Africa variants.

Asked if the PM’s trip to India would still go ahead, a No.10 spokesperson told a Westminster briefing: “The prime minister’s visit is still happening later this month.

“We have said that the programme will be slightly shorter than it will have been and you can expect the main body of his programme to take place on Monday April 26.

“As you would expect, safety is obviously important and is a priority for us on this trip, which is why we will make sure that all elements of the visit are Covid-secure.”

Pressed on why travel to India had not been restricted because of its high case numbers, Downing Street insisted that the red list is “under constant review”. 

The spokesperson said: “We add and remove countries based on the latest scientific data and public health advice from a range of world-leading experts.

“We keep it under constant review and we won’t hesitate to introduce tougher restrictions and add countries if we think it is necessary.”