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Health News

Thailand confirms coronavirus case linked to infected Hungarian minister

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand said on Tuesday a Hungarian diplomat had become infected with the coronavirus after being in contact with his foreign minister whose tour to the region was suspended last week after he tested positive for the virus.

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto (L) wearing protective face mask, arrives for a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

Cambodian authorities said on Monday at least four coronavirus infections there were believed to be linked to a visit by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his relatives were among more than 1,000 people who were tested because of the visit and were confirmed negative.

Szijjarto was found to be infected with the coronavirus after arriving in Thailand from Cambodia on Nov. 3, Thai authorities said earlier.

The Bangkok-based Hungarian diplomat, 53, tested positive on Monday. He had been in close proximity with Szijjarto shortly before a test he was given upon entry to Thailand confirmed he was infected, a Thai health official said.

“They were in the same car that picked up the minister and had a meal together,” Sophon Iamsirithaworn, director of the Disease Control Department, told a news conference.

He did not identify the diplomat but said 16 people in Thailand who were exposed to Szijjarto had returned negative tests.

PANDEMIC REGULATIONS

Hungary’s foreign ministry said in an emailed reply to Reuters that Szijjarto had tested negative for COVID-19 shortly before his departure for Asia. They said a routine test proved positive after he arrived to Bangkok.

Asked if Szijjarto wore a mask during his meetings in Asia, the ministry said: “The minister always complies with the pandemic regulations of the host country and fulfils the requests of the hosts.”

The foreign ministries of Cambodia and Thailand did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Both Thailand and Cambodia have successfully kept a lid on their coronavirus outbreaks, with 3,844 and 297 infections respectively, due in part to tight entry requirements and quarantine, where most recent infections have been found.

Thailand has recorded 60 COVID-19 deaths and Cambodia none.

By comparison, Hungary has seen a spike in cases since September, reporting an average 4,580 new daily infections and record fatalities in two of the past four days. It has had Europe’s third-highest death rate per 100,000 people in the past two weeks.

Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok, Prak Chan Thul in Phnom Penh and Gergely Szakacs in Budapest; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel and Gareth Jones

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