Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to cancel his planned trade trip to India later this month as cases of Covid-19 in the country soar.

Opposition parties have lined up to urge the prime minister to put off the trip, as calls mount for India to be placed on the government’s travel ‘red list’.

Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said Mr Johnson should carry out his planned engagements over zoom instead.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey also called on him to postpone the visit, saying although the UK’s relationship with India was “incredibly important, the risks associated with India whilst it struggling with such a severe wave are just too grave”.

And Professor Christina Pagel, from University College London who sits on the Independent Sage panel of scientists, told The Independent: “He shouldn’t be going – it’s just crazy. How insane would it be if we end up pushing our vaccination programme back by weeks or months because Boris Johnson went on a foreign trip?”

India has reported more than 150,000 Covid cases a day for the past three weeks.

The prime minister is set to hold talks in the country at the end of this month.

No 10 has said these will focus on “high-level discussions with the Indian government and Indian business leaders”.

Downing Street has insisted the visit will go ahead and steps will be taken to ensure it is Covid safe.

Mike Tildesley, a member of group which provides evidence on coronavirus to the Government’s Sage committee, said as much information about the new Indian variant must be gathered “as quickly as possible”.

Public Health England say 77 confirmed cases of the B.1.617 variant first discovered in India have been detected in the UK.

Mr Tildesley told BBC Breakfast: “What’s concerning about the Indian variant is there appear to be two mutations which… may make the vaccines less effective, and may make the virus more transmissible.”

But Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said there was not yet enough data to classify the Indian strain as a “variant of concern”.

She admitted some cases found in the UK did not appear to be linked to travel, but added “to escalate it up the ranking we need to know that it is increased transmissibility, increased severity or vaccine evading, and we just don’t have that yet”.

Environment Secretary George Eustice defended the decision not to add India to the ‘red list’, which would further restrict travel to the country.

But he added that it was “too early to say” whether all hospitality businesses can re-open on 17 May as planned as ministers had to keep “a close eye on these variants of concern”.

Mr Eustice did say it was “appropriate” that the prime minister’s trip should go ahead, despite rising infection rates in India.

The visit has already been shortened in response to the outbreak.

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