Indian Official Self-Isolates at G7 Talks After Possible Covid Exposure

LONDON – India’s Foreign Minister, who was visiting London for a meeting of ministers from the world’s top industrial powers, said Wednesday he was self-isolating after coming into contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the foreign minister, said on Twitter that he had been made aware of possible exposure to positive coronavirus cases. “As a measure of caution,” he said, he had decided to take part in the events virtually.

The event, which preceded a summit of leaders from the group of nations known as the Group of 7, was heralded as the first major personal diplomatic gathering since the pandemic began. Other members of the Indian delegation were also self-isolating.

It is because India is experiencing a devastating surge in coronavirus cases and the news that the country’s delegation was forced to self-isolate was a powerful reminder that some nations are heading for a full reopening with robust vaccination campaigns, others however, the pandemic continues to be in crisis.

Foreign ministers from the group of seven countries – USA, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – met this week in London with representatives from Australia, Brunei, India, South Africa and South Korea.

The first face-to-face meeting of foreign ministers takes place just a few weeks before the G7 summit, the first face-to-face meeting of world leaders in two years.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the decision to hold the June summit in person. “We have a very important relationship with India and with our G7 partners,” he told reporters, according to the BBC. “As I understand it, those affected are all isolated now.”

The Indian delegation had not yet attended key events at Lancaster House in London but attended other meetings, including with Priti Patel, the UK Home Secretary.

It is unclear how many members of the Indian delegation were vaccinated, but many of the officials the Foreign Minister met were given at least one dose of vaccine.

Given the masking required and social distancing measures, public health officials have found that the risk to those attending the meetings is low. Participants were not advised to self-isolate.

Daily testing was required for participants as part of the coronavirus protocols.

Footage of the event at Lancaster House showed officials gathering in a large hall on Tuesday in a wide circle separated by clear plastic barriers.

The UK Foreign Office said in a statement it was deeply regretful that Dr. Jaishankar was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting in person but added, “This is exactly why we have put in place strict Covid protocols and daily tests.”

Understand India’s Covid Crisis

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab tested negative for the corona virus on Wednesday.

A US State Department representative who participated in the London meeting said the delegation had been advised that the precautions taken would allow activities to continue as planned.

“We have no reason to believe that any of our delegations are at risk,” said Ned Price, a State Department spokesman. “We will continue to follow instructions from health professionals and adhere to the same strict Covid-19 protocols.”

State Secretary Antony J. Blinken was involved in the G7 discussions this week and met with Mr Johnson and Mr Raab on the sidelines of the summit.

Mr Johnson, who caught the coronavirus last year, received a dose of vaccine. At the top of the agenda were discussions about the cooperation between the two nations in the fight against coronavirus.

Mr. Blinken also met with Dr. Jaishankar. According to reporters traveling with the Foreign Minister, the two delegations sat socially distant and masked opposite each other and later gave short messages to the news media.

Dr. Jaishankar was due to attend a G7 dinner with Mr Blinken and other foreign ministers on Tuesday evening. It is unclear whether he participated.