A minister has confirmed Boris Johnson’s trip to India later this month was “under review” amid concerns over a new Covid variant in the country.
This comes as Downing Street last week said the trip would be “slightly shorter” than planned with important meetings taking place all in one day.
Top UK scientists have been calling for India to be added onto the “red list” of hotel quarantine countries.
This comes just days before Johnson is due to visit the country as part of his post-Brexit trade drive.
Asked if the prime minister should still be travelling to the country, housing minister Christopher Pincher told LBC: “Well, India is a hugely important business and cultural partner.
“The prime minister himself has had Covid, he knows exactly what it means to suffer from that terrible illness.
“We are making sure that the arrangements are Covid-secure so that that visit can take place safely.
“But of course, it will be kept under review as all these visits are as events unfold.”
Cases of the variant, which has a “double mutation”, are thought to be rising rapidly in the UK, according to scientists.
Labour has called on Johnson to “set an example” and cancel his trip due to the Covid risk.
Steve Reed, the shadow communities secretary, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “There are new variants emerging all around the world. The government is telling people don’t travel if you don’t absolutely have to travel. I can’t see why the prime minister can’t conduct his business with the Indian government by Zoom.”
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told Good Morning Britain: “My assumption from everything I’ve seen is that it will become a variant of concern.
“When it becomes a variant of concern, I’d be quite surprised if India wasn’t on the red list.”
He said the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown was “going well” but variants “do pose a threat”.