Boris Johnson's planned visit to India next week has been canceled because of the country's escalating coronavirus crisis, a joint statement by the United Kingdom and India has announced.
Reports quoted UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock terming the decision as a hard but vital one to make.
Cases in India have risen rapidly since mid-March after weeks of steady decline.
India has been added to England's red list to protect the country against a new variant of coronavirus (COVID-19) and against other existing variants.
According to a situation report on outbreak.info-which uses data from global repository GISAID (Global initiative on sharing all influenza data)-408 sequences in the B.1.617 lineage were detected till Friday, out of which, 265 were found in India.
"The two sides will be holding a virtual meeting in the coming days to launch plans for a transformed India-U.K. relationship".
Within an hour, there were simultaneous statements from London and New Delhi that Johnson's visit has been cancelled.
In late March, India's health authority said 771 variants of concern had been detected in a sample of nearly 11,000 positive cases - a fraction of the millions of cases recorded in the country.
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Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said at the weekend: "We have seen a couple of cases (of the Indian variant) that haven't arisen from travel but we're still trying to undergo the investigations to look in great detail at where they might have acquired it from".
NCOC also placed India in Category C countries.
Johnson and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now meet virtually to discuss a range of issues, including a possible post-Brexit trade agreement, the officials said.
The strain, known as B.1.617, is now designated a "variant under investigation" by British health authorities rather than a "variant of concern", such as those first identified in southeast England, Brazil and South Africa.
Mr Ashworth urged Mr Hancock to put in place surge testing to target the India variant, which the health secretary confirmed would happen.
PHE has said it has identified 77 cases of the variant in Britain.
Boris Johnson had already postponed the trip once from January, when COVID-19 infections were high in Britain.
Meanwhile, almost 33 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, while the number of people who are fully vaccinated has exceeded 10 million. The soaring cases and deaths come just months after India thought it had seen the worst of the pandemic.