More than 600 People Test Negative for COVID-19 following Contact with Hungarian Official

Cambodia’s Minister of Water Resources, right, welcomes Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó in the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Nov. 3 at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. Photo: Hun Sen Facebook.

He was found to carry the coronavirus the day after his visit to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH – A total of 628 individuals who had direct or indirect contact with Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó have tested negative for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health announced on Nov. 5, adding that the health authorities are continuing to do contact tracing.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Szijjártó tested positive for COVID-19 in Thailand after paying a one-day official visit to Cambodia on Nov. 3 during which he met with numerous high-ranking officials.

Upon receiving this information from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Health swiftly went about identifying and testing for the coronavirus anyone who had been in direct or indirect contact with the Hungarian foreign minister. All tests samples collected during the search and tracing operation were sent to the Pasteur Institute for testing.

“As of 23:00 pm, Nov. 4, samples of 628 persons having contact [with Szijjártó] were all negative, and the Ministry [continues] searching and will inform the public when receiving more results,” the ministry said in a press release.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had met with Szijjártó, wrote on his Facebook page on Nov. 4 that he had tested negative for COVID-19 along with his wife, bodyguards and driver. He added that he had gone into self-quarantine for 14 days in compliance with the Ministry of Health’s directives, which has meant cancelling appointments and changing his schedule for the coming days.

“I would like to apologize for not being able to cordially welcome His Majesty the King [Norodom Sihamoni] and the Queen Mother [Norodom Monineath Sihanouk] upon their arrival from the People's Republic of China and also accompany His Majesty and take part in the Independence Day [celebrations] on Nov. 9, 2020,” Hun Sen wrote. He also apologized to the ASEAN leaders for not being able attend the upcoming summit.

In addition to meeting Hun Sen, Szijjártó on Nov. 3 had held talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak and Parliamentarian Suos Yara. Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor and Mao Havannall, the minister in charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, were also seen shaking hands with Szijjártó during the signing ceremony at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

As many as nine senior officials are believed to have been in direct contact with the Hungarian foreign minister during his 1-day visit. The Cambodian government has ordered all ministers and officials who met with him to self-quarantine.

Moreover, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has issued a statement instructing the education institutions whose staff and students met directly with the Hungarian official to suspend their in-class study and teach online at this point. They also must report to the ministry at the phone number 023 335 999, the statement read. The ministry also instructed staff and students to go into self-isolation for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said that a Cambodian man, a Polish man and a French man who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 have tested negative twice for the coronavirus and been allowed to leave the hospital.

As of Nov. 5, a total of 292 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the country since the start of the pandemic. Among them, five Cambodian and one French patients remain hospitalized while the others have recovered.

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