British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday cancelled his visit to India where he was scheduled to participate as the chief guest during the Republic Day parade on January 26.
“The prime minister spoke to Prime Minister Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
“In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the prime minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus,” she said.
In Britain, nearly 56 million people in England will return to a full coronavirus lockdown, possibly until mid-February.
The measures, which include the closure of primary and secondary schools, will come into effect Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address, after Scotland announced similar from Tuesday midnight.
A total of 58,784 people tested positive in the UK on Monday, with cases in the last seven days up 50 % on the previous week.
Overall, Britain has been among the worst hit in the world by the outbreak, with some 2.7 million cases and 75,431 deaths.
In New Delhi, this year’s Republic Day Parade will be of a shorter duration, with smaller marching contingents and fewer cultural performances as well as strict social distancing protocols in place for a reduced number of spectators on Rajpath on January 26.
President Barack Obama was the chief guest for the Republic Day parade in 2015 while French President François Hollande graced the occasion in 2016.
Last year, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil was the chief guest.