Who could possibly have foreseen this happening?
This week’s in-person G7 meeting in London has quickly descended into chaos after two Indian delegates tested positive for the coronavirus. The India group was granted an exemption to Britain’s quarantine rules upon its arrival—despite the massive virus surge in their home country—but all its delegates have now been told to go into self-isolation.
Ahead of the meeting, the British government promised “COVID-secure talks” with the foreign ministers of the G7 countries, as well as special guests from India, Australia, South Korea, and South Africa. It was intended as a trial for the full-scale G7 summit in England next month, which is expected to be Joe Biden’s first foreign trip as president.
But the entire Indian contingent has now been forced to self-isolate and will attend the rest of this week’s meetings virtually from their hotel rooms. According to Sky News, India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, but he was not one of the two Indian delegates to have tested positive.
The Indian foreign minister posted a photo of himself at a Zoom meeting later Wednesday with the caption: “So far, yet so near.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked Wednesday if it was a mistake to hold the in-person meeting when the pandemic is still raging out of control in some parts of the world. He said: “I think it’s very important to try to continue as much business as you can as a government. We have a very important relationship with India, with our G7 partners.”
The British PM went on: “What’s happened is the individuals concerned, they’re all isolating now. I will be seeing the Indian foreign minister later on this afternoon but that will be a Zoom exchange.”
But the near-inevitability of positive cases recorded at the meeting will raise more questions about whether it’s sensible to hold international in-person events before the pandemic is under control globally. The full G7 summit is set to take place in Cornwall, England on June 11-13.
The positive cases at the London G7 meeting came during an unprecedented coronavirus surge in India. There were 382,315 new cases recorded on Wednesday, and, according to Reuters, the country has recorded over 300,000 cases every day for the past two weeks.
The British opposition leader, the Labour Party’s Sir Keir Starmer, said on Wednesday: “It’s a reminder of how vigilant we need to be about our borders—we’ve been challenging the government on this for some months. Let’s get to the bottom of how this happened, we cannot have a repeat.”
The meeting was billed by the U.K. government as “an opportunity to show how the world’s biggest democracies work together to ensure equitable access to vaccines [and] build back better from the pandemic.”