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Hungary's foreign minister tests positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Thailand

Hungary's foreign minister tests positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Thailand

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto attends a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Oct 8, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Adriano Machado)

BANGKOK: Hungary's minister of foreign affairs and trade tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Thailand for an official visit, Thai and Hungarian officials said on Wednesday (Nov 4).

Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Peter Szijjarto and his 12-member delegation were tested after their arrival on Tuesday from Cambodia, but only the foreign minister was found to be infected.

He said Szijjarto, who was tested twice, was sent to Thailand’s Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute for treatment pending his planned evacuation later on Wednesday by plane back to his homeland.

The 42-year-old foreign minister will return on one plane and the other members of his party in a separate aircraft, Anutin said.

The Hungarian delegation was supposed to have a two-day visit aimed at strengthening ties, especially in economic matters. They were to pay a courtesy call on Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and meet with Szijjarto’s Thai counterpart, Don Pramudwinai, but all their appointments were canceled.

The Hungarian news agency MTI, citing the chief press officer for Hungary’s foreign ministry, confirmed that Szijjarto tested positive for the coronavirus but added that he had tested negative before leaving last month for his Asian tour.

Officials at Hungary’s embassy in Bangkok could not immediately be contacted for further details.

On his one-day visit to Cambodia, Szijjarto officially opened a satellite office of Hungary’s embassy in neighboring Vietnam and signed economic cooperation agreements covering water management, agriculture and air services.

During his visit, he paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hun Sen and held separate meetings with Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and the ministers of commerce and agriculture. In photos of their meetings, neither Szijjarto nor some of his hosts was wearing a face mask to guard against the coronavirus.

Cambodia sees Hungary as one of its closer allies in Europe. Both countries have strongman rulers who are at odds with liberal Western nations. 

Cambodia has expressed gratitude for Hungary’s dissent from the decision by the European Union, of which Hungary is a member, to cut trade privileges for Cambodia. The EU took the action earlier this year after judging that Hun Sen's government failed to respect labor and democratic rights.

On Oct 14, Szijjarto was in Singapore for an official visit, during which he was hosted to lunch by Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a news release on the same day.

They discussed "ways to broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation in economics, agri-trade and investment, as well as people-to-people exchanges".

He also met with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on the same day before departing Singapore.

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Source: AP/ga


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