The entire delegation of India to the Group of Seven summit in London is in self-isolation after two members tested positive for COVID-19, the UK government has said.
Diplomats from the G-7 group of wealthy nations are holding their first face-to-face gathering in two years, with social distancing and other measures in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted that he was “made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases. As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode.”
Delegates attending the event at Lancaster House in London have been observing social distancing and are separated by transparent screens in meetings, and are tested daily for the virus.
India is not a G-7 member but was invited along with South Korea, Australia and South Africa as a guest for the second day of the meeting on Wednesday.
The guest nations’ delegations didn’t attend the conference on Tuesday, though Jaishankar has held meetings in London with officials including British Home Secretary Priti Patel and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said “the US delegation was advised, including by the UK’s public health professionals, that our stringent masking, social distancing, and daily testing protocols would permit us to continue with our G-7 activities as planned.”
“We have no reason to believe any of our delegation is at risk,” he said.
Britain’s Foreign Office said it regretted that Jaishankar couldn’t attend the meeting in person, “but this is exactly why we have put in place strict Covid protocols and daily testing.”
India is experiencing a vast outbreak of COVID-19, with 382,315 new confirmed cases and 3,780 reported deaths in the last 24 hours, in what is widely believed to be an undercount.
The UK, which holds the G-7 presidency this year, is due to host the group’s leaders at a summit in Cornwall, southwest England, in June.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the decision to hold the foreign ministers’ meeting in person.
“I think it’s very important to try to continue as much business as you can as a government,” he said.
Johnson said he would be holding “a Zoom exchange” with Jaishankar later.
At the two-day G-7 meeting, top diplomats from the UK, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan are seeking unity to deal with increasing challenges from China and Russia.
Talks will focus on attempts to bolster open societies and make coronavirus vaccines available around the world. Wealthy countries have so far been reluctant to give up precious stocks until they have inoculated their own populations.