Simon Coveney 'not a close contact' of Austrian minister who has Covid-19

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has been told by the HSE that he is not considered a close contact of his Austrian counterpart who has tested positive for .

r Coveney held a bilateral meeting with Alexander Schallenberg on Monday following a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in Luxembourg.

Mr Schallenberg has subsequently tested positive for the virus, his spokeswoman told Reuters on Saturday, adding that it was suspected he was infected at the FAC meeting in Luxembourg.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney told Independent.ie on Saturday: “The Minister had a consultation with a senior public health doctor from the HSE today and he is not considered a close contact.”

Mr Coveney and two Irish officials met with Mr Schallenberg and one Austrian official for around 15 minutes in one of the Irish delegation’s meeting rooms on the margins of the council meeting. Mr Coveney’s spokesman said it was a large room with social distancing protocols in place.

The Fine Gael TD also attended a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council on Tuesday along with EU Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne. That event was also attended by Belgian foreign minister Sophie Wilmes who also confirmed on Saturday she has tested positive for the virus.

Mr Coveney and Mr Byrne were both tested when they arrived back in Ireland on Tuesday and were not in the Dáil on Tuesday for Budget votes as they awaited their test results which came back negative. Both men have since been limiting their movements to essential business including attending the Dáil, Government meetings and work in their Departments.

Both ministers attended the Dáil on Wednesday when Mr Coveney also attended a Cabinet meeting that was held across several separate rooms in Government Buildings.

Mr Coveney’s spokesman said he was not in a room with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste or Health Minister.

Mr Byrne subsequently attended the European Council meeting in Brussels with Taoiseach on Thursday.

He was tested for upon his return to Ireland in the last 24 hours and this result has also come back negative.

Under Irish essential travel protocols, Mr Coveney and Mr Byrne will undergo further tests next week.

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