No foreign dignitary will be present as chief guest at this year’s Republic Day celebrations due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava confirmed on Thursday. This is the first time in 55 years that India will not have a chief guest at the Republic Day parade, according to PTI.
“Due to the global Covid-19 situation, it has been decided that this year there will not be a foreign head of state or government as the chief guest for our Republic Day event,” Srivastava said at his weekly press briefing.
The last time India did not send an invitation to any head of state was in 1966 due to the sudden death of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, according to The Indian Express. The new government then led by Indira Gandhi was sworn in on January 24, 1966 – only two days ahead of the Republic Day celebrations.
For this year, India had invited British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to attend the Republic Day event in New Delhi. But he cancelled his visit on January 5, following the outbreak of a mutant strain of the virus in the United Kingdom that prompted new restrictions in the country. “In light of the national lockdown...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,” Johnson’s spokesperson had said.
The Union health ministry on Wednesday had said the tally of people in India who have tested positive for the new UK variant of coronavirus was 102. All these people have been isolated in single rooms by respective state governments. Their close contacts have also been put in quarantine.
India registered 16,946 new cases on Thursday, taking the overall count to 1,05,12,093. The country’s toll rose by 198 to 1,51,727. India’s active cases stood at at 2,13,603, while the number of recoveries reached 1,01,46,763.