United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was scheduled to be the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day ceremony, has pulled out of the event, Reuters reported.
“The prime minister spoke to Prime Minister 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.
“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.”
No official statement has been released yet by 10 Downing Street. Johnson is slated to hold a news conference with England’s chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser later today, a day after he announced a new nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of a new and reportedly more-infectious strain of the coronavirus.
The new strain has since spread from Britain to across the world, with several states in India already reporting new cases. Over 20 new cases were identified in India on Tuesday, taking the total to 58.
The new strain has already been seen in Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore. The United States, the world’s most-affected country in terms of total and active COVID-19 infections, has reported one case of the strain, from a man who returned from the UK.