Blinken’s COVID Affair Halts Southeast Asia Tour – San Bernardino Sun

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By MATTHEW LEE

BANGKOK (AP) — A positive COVID-19 test among U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s travel party has cut short the top diplomat’s first official tour of Southeast Asia.

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

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

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

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

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken had spoken to Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to explain the change in plans.

“The Secretary expressed his deep regret to the FM that he could not travel to Bangkok this week. He explained that in order to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and to prioritize health and safety American travelers and those with whom they would otherwise come into contact, the Secretary would return to Washington, D.C. with an abundance of caution,” Price said.

Neither Blinken, any of its top executives or other members of the press have tested positive so far, 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 only member of the travel party who tested positive meets all Ministry of Health requirements,” the embassy said. “We can confirm that the individual was not involved with 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 began his current journey in the English city of Liverpool, where he took part in a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers over the weekend.

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

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