COVID fear at G7 meeting after Indian delegates test positive



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in New Delhi, India on April 6, 2021. Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION


By William James and Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) – The meeting of the Group of Seven Foreign Ministers in London was hit by COVID-19 horror on Wednesday when the Indian Foreign Minister and his entire team said they were self-isolating after two delegation members tested positive.

Britain is hosting the three-day meeting – the first such G7 event in two years – which has been heavily billed as an opportunity to resume personal diplomacy and as an opportunity for the West to show a unified front against threats from China and China Russia.

India, which is currently experiencing the world’s worst spike in COVID-19 cases, is attending the G7 as a guest and should attend meetings on Tuesday evening and all Wednesday.

“Attention was drawn to possible Covid-positive cases last night,” said Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Twitter.

“Out of caution and out of consideration for others, I have decided to carry out my engagements in virtual mode. This will also be the case today at the G7 meeting.”

The meeting is a precursor to the main G7 summit, which will be held in a rural English resort in June. US President Joe Biden and other world leaders will attend.

A British official confirmed the two positive tests and said the entire Indian delegation was self-isolating. UK rules require a 10 day self isolation period.

The Indian delegation had not yet attended the main summit at Lancaster House and the meetings scheduled for Wednesday took place as planned.

When asked if, given the positive tests, it was a mistake to hold the summit in person, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “I think it is very important to continue doing as much business as possible as a government.”

Johnson said he would speak to Jaishankar about Zoom later Wednesday.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was seen greeting other G7 members and poking his fist when they arrived at the venue.

“We deeply regret that Jaishankar will not be able to attend the meeting in person today,” said a senior British diplomat. “This is exactly why we have implemented strict COVID protocols and daily tests.”

On Tuesday, pictures from the large conference room of Lancaster House showed the reality of diplomacy in the coronavirus era – delegates separated by plastic screens and a “family photo” of ministers carefully two meters apart.

Jaishankar was pictured meeting with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on Tuesday, although Patel did not need to self-isolate as the meeting was held in accordance with existing rules. Both wore masks in the photo.

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

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

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