COVID-19 scare at G7 meeting after Indian delegates test positive

LONDON: India’s entire delegation to the Group of Seven summit in London is self-isolating after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19, the British government said on Wednesday (May 5).

“Two delegates tested positive so the entire delegation is now self isolating,” a British official said.

“The meeting had been enabled by a strict set of COVID protocols, including daily testing of all delegates,” the British official said. British rules require a 10-day self-isolation period.

READ: India accounts for 46% of world’s new COVID-19 cases, quarter of deaths

India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he would hold his talks virtually after being exposed to possible coronavirus cases.

“Was made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases,” Jaishankar tweeted.

“As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode. That will be the case with the G7 Meeting today as well.”

The meeting is a precursor to the main G7 summit due to take place at a rural English resort in June, with US President Joe Biden and other world leaders set to attend.

Britain G7

G7 Foreign Ministers (left to right) European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas, Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pose for a family photo at the start of the G7 foreign ministers meeting in London on May 4, 2021. (Photo: AP)

Jaishankar met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in-person on Monday evening on the sidelines of the foreign ministers summit.

The US State Department said it had been advised, including by public health professionals in Britain, that its health protocols “would permit us to continue with our G7 activities as planned”.

“We have no reason to believe any of our delegation is at risk. We will continue to follow the guidance of public health professionals going forward and abide by the same strict COVID-19 protocols,” spokesman Ned Price said.

READ: G7 seeks common front on China in first talks since COVID-19 pandemic

The Indian delegation had not yet attended the main summit venue at Lancaster House, and so meetings scheduled for Wednesday went ahead as planned.

British foreign minister Dominic Raab was seen greeting and fist-bumping other G7 members as they arrived at the venue.

“We deeply regret that Jaishankar will be unable to attend the meeting today in person,” a senior UK diplomat said. “This is exactly why we have put in place strict COVID protocols and daily testing.”

On Tuesday, pictures from inside the grand Lancaster House conference venue showed the reality of diplomacy in the coronavirus age – delegates separated by plastic screens, and a “family photo” of ministers carefully spaced 2m apart.

Jaishankar was pictured meeting British interior minister Priti Patel on Tuesday, although Patel did not have to self-isolate because the meeting had been held in line with existing rules. Both were wearing masks in the photograph.

G7 meeting May 4, 2021

Talks at the start of the G7 foreign ministers meeting in London on May 4, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Stefan Rousseau)

The Indian High Commission in London did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier, British vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was unaware of a report that delegates from G7 countries were self-isolating because of a COVID-19 scare.

India is not a G7 member but was invited by Britain to this week’s summit, along with Australia, South Africa and South Korea.

India has been hit by a devastating wave of infections in recent weeks that has taken its total number of cases to more than 20.6 million.

The massive spike has pushed the healthcare system to breaking point, overwhelming hospitals and leading to severe shortages of beds, oxygen and other critical medical supplies.

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