Hungarian minister tests positive for virus while on South-east Asia tour

BANGKOK (AFP) – Hungary’s foreign minister tested positive for coronavirus in Thailand, the kingdom’s health minister said on Wednesday (Nov 4), a day after he jetted in from a meeting with Cambodian premier Hun Sen.

Mr Peter Szijjarto flew into Phnom Penh on Tuesday for a one-day official visit to sign agreements on civil aviation, agriculture and water management, as well as reopening an embassy after a 25-year hiatus.

He was pictured with Mr Hun Sen at a meeting where neither appeared to be socially distancing or wearing a mask.

The minister also met his Cambodian counterpart and shook hands with a coterie of other ministers.

On Tuesday night, Mr Szijjarto arrived in Bangkok and was swiftly taken to hospital after testing positive for the virus on arrival.

The test “showed he has Covid-19, but he didn’t have any symptoms”, Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters, after he visited Mr Szijjarto at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute on Wednesday. “His entourage all tested negative.”

Mr Szijjarto’s scheduled meetings in the Thai capital have been cancelled, and an extra plane has been ordered from Hungary to transport him home separately from his staff.

Cambodian officials and the Hungarian embassy in Bangkok did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr Hun Sen, a staunch ally of Beijing, spent the early weeks of the pandemic refusing to wear a mask or close Cambodia’s borders to China.

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But as cases surged across Europe and the US, the kingdom barred foreign tourists – though never those from the Chinese market – and Mr Hun Sen changed his tune, urging the public to don masks.

The country has emerged mostly unscathed by the virus, registering fewer than 300 cases and no deaths.

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