The COVID case in the Blinken press curtails his South East Asia tour

A positive COVID-19 test at US Secretary of State Blinken’s tour company has cut short the top diplomat’s first official trip to Southeast Asia.

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

A member of the press corps who was accompanying Blinken on a planned tri-nation visit to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand tested positive for the coronavirus in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, forcing Blinken to abandon the program at its next and final stop in Bangkok , and back to the United States.

Instead of spending Wednesday evening in Bangkok, Blinken flew to the Thai capital for a brief logistical stopover before traveling to Guam to refuel and then on to Hawaii. At Bangkok airport, at least two Thai ground crew members in full protective gear were seen waiting for Blinken’s plane.

The abrupt change in plans was partly caused by fears that other members of the delegation could also test positive and they would have 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 spoke with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to explain the change in plans.

“The secretary expressed to FM his deep regret that he will not be able to visit Bangkok this week. He stated that to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and to prioritize the health and safety of U.S. travelers and those who would otherwise come into contact with the Secretary, they were returning to Washington, DC out of abundance caution ‘ Price said.

Neither Blinken, any of its senior executives, nor other members of the press corps have tested positive, according to Price.

In a statement published online, the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it had notified the Malaysian government of the virus case and thanked the Malaysian authorities for their support.

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

Blinken arrived in Kuala Lumpur late Tuesday from Jakarta, Indonesia. He began his current journey in the English city of Liverpool, where he attended a meeting of the Group of Seven Foreign Ministers over the weekend.

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

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