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Hungary's foreign minister tests positive for coronavirus while on state visit to Thailand

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Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Thailand for an official visit.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Thailand for an official visit.   -   Copyright  Valentina Petrova/Associated Press
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Hungary's minister of foreign affairs and trade tested positive for coronavirus after arriving in Thailand for an official visit, Thai and Hungarian officials said on Wednesday.

Thai health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Peter Szijjarto and his 12-member delegation were tested following their arrival on Tuesday from Cambodia, but only after 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 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, Charnvirakul 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 Prayuth Chan-ocha and meet with Szijjarto’s Thai counterpart, Don Pramudwinai, but all their appointments were cancelled.

The Hungarian news agency MTI, citing the chief press officer for Hungary’s foreign ministry, confirmed that Szijjarto tested positive for 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 neighbouring Vietnam and signed economic cooperation agreements covering water management, agriculture, and air services.

During his visit, he paid a courtesy call to 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 were wearing a face mask to guard against the coronavirus.

Cambodia sees Hungary as one of its closest 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 to cut trade privileges for Cambodia.

The EU took the action earlier this year after judging that Hun Sen's government failed to respect labour and democratic rights.