World

Coronavirus case halts US Secretary of State’s tour

BANGKOK – A positive COVID-19 test during the visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cut short the top diplomat’s first official trip to Southeast Asia.

A member of the press delegation that accompanied Blinken on a trip to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, forcing Blinken to abandon the show at its next and final stop. his family in Bangkok. and returned to the United States.

Instead of spending Wednesday night in Bangkok, Blinken flew to the Thai capital for a brief logistical pause before heading to Guam to refuel and then continue on to Hawaii. At the airport in Bangkok, at least two Thai crew members wore full protective gear as they serviced Blinken’s plane.

The sudden change in plans was partly due to concerns that others in the delegation could also test positive, requiring them to be quarantined in Thailand over the Christmas holiday.

Journalists who test positive will stay in Kuala Lumpur for a 10-day mandatory quarantine.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken spoke with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to explain the change of plans.

“The minister expressed deep regret to FM that he would not be able to visit Bangkok this week. He explained that in order to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 and to prioritize the health and safety of US delegations and those with whom they will come into contact with the secretariat will return to Washington, DC under extreme caution,” said Price.

So far, neither Blinken, any of his senior staff, nor other members of the press team have tested positive, according to Price.

In a statement posted online, the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it had informed the Malaysian government of the virus case and thanked the Malaysian authorities for their support.

The embassy said: “The only member of the tour group who has tested positive is complying with all requirements of the Ministry of Health. “We can confirm that the person is not related to and has not participated in any of Minister Blinken’s programs in Kuala Lumpur.”

Blinken arrived in Kuala Lumpur late on Tuesday from Jakarta, Indonesia. He began his current journey in the British city of Liverpool, where he took part in the Group of 7 meeting of foreign ministers over the weekend.

The US State Department tested Blinken’s plane for the virus daily, and Price said the journalist had tested negative in both Liverpool and Jakarta.

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