Journal De Bruxelles - Irish PM tests positive for Covid-19 ahead of White House meeting

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Irish PM tests positive for Covid-19 ahead of White House meeting
Irish PM tests positive for Covid-19 ahead of White House meeting

Irish PM tests positive for Covid-19 ahead of White House meeting

Ireland's prime minister Micheal Martin tested positive for Covid-19, forcing him to leave a gala event attended by President Joe Biden and upending plans for the two leaders to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day at the White House on Thursday.

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Martin, who holds the position known as the Taoiseach in Ireland, was pictured sitting next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Ireland Funds Gala event at the National Building Museum in Washington late Wednesday shortly before leaving due to a positive PCR test.

Biden was at the same dinner and had been due to host Martin in the Oval Office on Thursday, as well as at an annual Saint Patrick's Day ceremony where the Irish premier presents the US president with a bowl of shamrock grown in Ballinskelligs, southwest Ireland.

A White House official said that Biden was not considered to have been in any danger and hadn't been tested.

"He is not a close contact, so testing cadence would not change," the official said.

An Irish government spokesman said Martin's positive test followed two negative tests, including one earlier Wednesday.

"A further test was carried out when one of the Taoiseach's delegation received a positive test, which resulted in a later positive result for the Taoiseach," the spokesman said.

Ireland's ambassador to the United States Daniel Mulhall tweeted that he had given the Taoiseach's speech for him after he left Wednesday's dinner and "I wish the Taoiseach well for his recovery."

In his own speech at the gala, Biden spoke of his Irish roots, saying "I inherited my mother's side of the family's overwhelming pride, overwhelming pride in being Irish."

Martin, who is staying at the White House guest facilities, Blair House, "is feeling well and is currently self-isolating on public health advice," the Irish government said.

It was unclear how his positive result will affect the rest of his schedule in the US or his return to Ireland, which will on Sunday hold a national day of remembrance to commemorate those who died during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is the second high-profile Covid positive case close to Biden in just days.

On Tuesday, the White House said that Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, had a positive test, but that Harris and Biden were unaffected.