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Hungary's Foreign Minister Tests Positive After Cambodia Visit

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, left, talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Pool Photo via AP)

Hungary's minister of foreign affairs and trade tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Thailand for an official visit, Thai and Hungarian officials said Wednesday.

Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Peter Szijjarto and his 12-member delegation were tested after their arrival 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 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 Prayuth Chan-ocha 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.

Phone calls to Hungary’s embassy in Bangkok for further details went unanswered.

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.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Cambodia's foreign ministry said Szijjarto’s delegation was tested before leaving Cambodia and was not found to be infected.

However, after learning that Szijjarto had tested positive in Thailand, the government advised all officials who had been in contact with him to be tested for the coronavirus and put themselves in isolation according to health ministry guidelines, it said.

During his visit, Szijjarto 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. Photos of the meetings showed Szijjarto not wearing a face mask to guard against the coronavirus when meeting with Hun Sen and Prak Sokhonn, though other members of the Hungarian delegation did. Prak Sokhonn did not wear a mask and greeted his visitor with a handshake.

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.