Journalist traveling to Blinken in Asia tests positive for virus

BANGKOK (AP) – A positive COVID-19 test among US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s travel team cut short the senior diplomat’s first official tour of Southeast Asia.

A member of the press accompanying Blinken on what was to be a three-country visit to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, forcing Blinken to drop the program on his next and final stop in Bangkok, and return to the United States.

Instead of spending Wednesday night in Bangkok, Blinken flew to the Thai capital for a brief logistical stopover before heading to Guam to refuel, then on to Hawaii. At Bangkok airport, at least two Thai ground crew were seen wearing full protective gear as they maintained Blinken’s plane.

The abrupt change of plans was caused in part by fears that other members of the delegation might also test positive, forcing them to self-quarantine in Thailand over the Christmas holidays.

The journalist who tested positive will remain in Kuala Lumpur for mandatory 10-day isolation.

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

“The secretary expressed his deep regret to FM not being able to go to Bangkok this week. He explained that in order to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and to prioritize the health and safety of the group of American travelers and those with whom they would otherwise come into contact with the secretary would return to Washington , DC in abundance. of caution, ”Price said.

Neither Blinken, nor any of his senior executives nor any other member of the press have tested positive so far, according to Price.

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

“The only member of the travel team who tested positive meets all Ministry of Health requirements,” the embassy said. “We can confirm that the person was not involved and did not participate in any of Secretary Blinken’s programs in Kuala Lumpur.”

Blinken arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday evening from Jakarta, Indonesia. He started his current trip in the English city of Liverpool, where he attended a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers over the weekend.

The State Department tested those on Blinken’s plane for the virus daily and Price said the reporter tested negative in Liverpool and Jakarta.

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