IN LONDON to attend a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and three members of his delegation went into isolation on Wednesday after he said they had been exposed to “possible Covid-19 positive cases”.
While Jaishankar attended the G7 meeting through virtual mode on Wednesday, he had met British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Tuesday and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday night.
This is the first in-person Summit of the G7 since the pandemic began.
While the British local media reported that two members of the Indian delegation had tested positive, sources in New Delhi did not confirm it. Officials said Jaishankar, who has received both doses of Covid vaccination, and the three others were doing fine.
Jaishankar tweeted, “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.”
As per the mandatory requirement for international travel, all four had been tested for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours prior to their departure on Sunday and were negative, sources said. Officials said there were “concerns” that Jaishankar may have been exposed to the virus in the past two days.
The Indian High Commission in London is in touch with British health authorities to ascertain the level of exposure and what needs to be done. The delegation’s travel plans will be worked out as per the UK public health protocol. According to the original schedule, they were to return later this week.
Since April 23, India has been on the UK’s “red list” of countries from which most travel is banned, over fears of new Covid variants. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had cancelled a scheduled trip to India last month over the same concerns.
Jaishankar had arrived in London on Monday for a four-day visit at the invitation of UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to join the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting as one of the guest ministers. Raab had welcomed the presence of representatives from Australia, India, the Republic of Korea and South Africa, as well as the chair of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), as a sign of the growing significance of the Indo Pacific region for G7.
Jaishankar was to join ministers from the other guest nations for the first formal gathering of the summit over a working dinner on Tuesday evening.
Among the events forced to be held entirely virtually — instead of the planned hybrid format — were a diaspora-focused event as part of the Global Dialogue Series, hosted by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar, on Wednesday. A bilateral meeting scheduled with Raab on Thursday may also take virtual form.
At Jaishankar’s meeting with Priti Patel Tuesday, India and the UK signed a new Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement, meant to “facilitate legal travel and encourage talent flows”.
Jaishankar later held talks with Josep Borrell Fontelles, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, thanking him for the “support and goodwill” extended by the EU over the Covid crisis; participated in the first India-France-Australia Trilateral Ministerial Dialogue; and held discussions with South African Foreign Minister Dr Naledi Pandor over the pandemic, economic recovery and Commonwealth issues.
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