CARBIS BAY, England—World leaders descending on the rolling hills of Cornwall this weekend for the first in-person meeting of the Group of Seven leading economies after more than a year of videoconferences and phone calls found a summit that was still far from normal.
Hours before it officially started, the G-7 saw its first major Covid-19 scare—on a cruise ship.
The U.K. government hired the Silja Europa and moored it in the nearby Falmouth Harbour to house 1,000 police officers brought in to marshal the G-7. In the early hours of Friday morning, 12 officers were ordered into isolation after a policeman on the ship tested positive for the virus, according to local police.
Separately, a hotel in the county of Cornwall where the G-7 summit is located temporarily closed, according to its website. Local media reported that staff tested positive for Covid-19 and that members of the media covering the summit were among those staying at the hotel. The hotel didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The U.K. has seen a rise in infections from the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus, which originated in India. Prime Minister
is expected to decide Monday whether to delay a final relaxation of Covid-19 rules due to take place later this month. Cases are up nearly 60% over the past week, to around 46,000.
The British, who are organizing the summit, made the event smaller than normal. They invited a handful of guest countries but far fewer than the French invited to a G-7 gathering in Biarritz in 2019. There were fewer journalists allowed into the event, too.
Participants in the summit had to navigate the U.K.’s coronavirus restrictions, which include Covid-19 testing and quarantine upon entry if an individual has recently traveled to countries that the U.K. deems a coronavirus risk.
While some delegations received waivers allowing them to enter and leave the country without quarantining, all participants are required to take daily self-administered Covid-19 tests. The results are sent to U.K. authorities and attendees must display cellphone photos of a negative result to get past security checkpoints.
Inside the security perimeter, in this hilly village overlooking the ocean, are frequent reminders of the pandemic’s risks. Signs warn attendees to wear masks and socially distance. At the Tregenna Castle hotel, where President Biden and senior U.S. officials are staying, guests were encouraged to eat their meals outside at picnic tables set up on a patch of grass.
Some leaders on the first day of the summit Friday greeted each other with elbow bumps, but others sought closer contact. French President
put his arm around Mr. Biden following a group photo with the world leaders. During the photo, the leaders stood socially distanced but didn’t wear masks, nor did they when they met for the summit’s opening session.
Not every world leader has completed the full vaccination regimen. Canadian Prime Minister
for example, has only received one of two doses of the AstraZeneca shot. He has said he would quarantine after returning to Canada.
The lead-up to the G-7 had been disrupted too. A meeting of the G-7 foreign ministers in London in May suffered a Covid-19 scare when the delegation from India went into self-isolation after two officials tested positive. The rest of the meeting was able to conclude without problem. Indian Prime Minister
was invited to Cornwall but is attending via video call because of the outbreak in his country.
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