AFP/ New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the G7 Summit in the UK in person, the Indian government said yesterday, as the country reels from a massive wave of coronavirus cases.
India is not part of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies but was invited to the talks by Britain, which holds the rotating presidency of the organisation throughout 2021.
“Given the prevailing Covid situation, it has been decided that the prime minister will not attend the G7 Summit in person,” foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.
The decision to virtually appear at the leaders’ summit in Cornwall in southern England in June comes as India reported nearly 330,000 fresh cases and almost 3,900 new deaths on Monday.
It also follows a virus scare within India’s foreign ministry delegation in early May.
Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who had travelled to Britain for G7 meetings with his counterparts, said then that he would avoid in-person meetings after a possible exposure to positive cases.
India – a country of 1.3bn people – is the world’s second-most infected after the US with nearly 23mn Covid-19 cases.
The new surge in cases has ravaged major cities, including the capital New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, pushing hospitals to breaking point and leading to severe shortages in oxygen and beds.
Many states across the country have imposed lockdowns, as well as curbs on movement and activities to try and reduce the spread of the virus.
But the pathogen is also spreading into rural areas, where the majority of the population lives, overwhelming local health centres but also crematoriums and cemeteries.
Meanwhile, foreign aid has been pouring into India to alleviate the nation’s dire oxygen shortage as part of a huge international effort.
The urgent supplies – from the US, Russia and the UK among others – include oxygen generators, face masks and vaccines.
The World Health Organisation said on Monday that a Covid-19 variant spreading in India appeared to be more contagious as it classified as being “of concern”.
Singapore premier slams attack on woman
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has condemned an alleged racist attack on a local woman of Indian descent after media reported she was kicked and abused for not wearing a mask, in a case that is being investigated by police. In a Facebook post, Lee said while people may be anxious and stressed because of the Covid-19 pandemic “that does not justify racist attitudes and actions, much less physically abusing and assaulting someone because she belongs to a particular race, in this case Indian.” Local media reported the 55-year-old Singaporean woman was walking briskly on Friday when a man shouted racial slurs at her for not wearing her mask above her nose and kicked her in the chest. Face masks are mandatory in public in Singapore, but can be removed when exercising, including brisk walking. In statement yesterday, Singapore police said a 30-year-old man had been arrested for public nuisance, uttering words with intent to wound the racial feelings of others and voluntarily causing hurt. A multicultural society, Singapore has strict laws regulating acts that could damage racial harmony.
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