Labour calls on Johnson to cancel India trip amid Covid variant surge

Joanna Taylor
·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Boris Johnson should cancel his plans to visit India later this month because of their spiking Covid-19 cases, Labour has said.

The Prime Minister is set to attend trade talks in the country on 26 April.

But scientists and government officials have raised concerns about the spread of a Covid-19 variant first identified in India. More than 70 cases have already been recorded in the UK.

Shadow Communities Secretary Steve Reed said that he can’t understand why the Prime Minister won’t hold his talks over Zoom.

Asked by Sky News’s Sophy Ridge whether Mr Johnson should still be planning his trip, he said: “he shouldn’t be, no”.

“There are new variants emerging all around the world. The government is telling people don’t travel unless you absolutely have to travel,” Mr Reed said.

“I can’t see why the Prime Minister can’t conduct his business with the Indian government by Zoom. I think the Prime Minister and all of us in public life need to try and set an example.”

Mr Johnson has scaled back his trip in response to to concerns over India’s rising cases and Downing Street has insisted that “all elements will be Covid-secure”.

But his decision to go, particularly as the B.1.617 strain lies behind the dramatic surge – including in Delhi, the Prime Minister’s planned destination – has been branded “crazy” by a University College London scientist.

Professor Christina Pagel told The Independent: “He shouldn’t be going – it’s just crazy. How insane would it be if we end up pushing our vaccination programme back by weeks or months because Boris Johnson went on a foreign trip?”

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor for NHS Test and Trace, has warned that it’s possible to become infected by different strains of coronavirus even when vaccinated.

“We have seen some people who have had their first dose of vaccine who have had the South African variant and the variant that arose in Kent,” she told BBC’s the Andrew Marr show.

“That’s why we ask people to take caution.”

Dr Hopkins added that there isn’t yet enough data to classify the Indian strain as a “variant of concern”.

“We have seen a couple of cases that haven’t arisen from travel but we’re still trying to undergo the investigations to look in great detail at where they might have acquired it from,” she said.

India has reported daily spikes of more than 200,000 cases over a 48-hour period in the last week.

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