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HSE contacted Simon Coveney faces wait after meeting Austrian Minister diagnosed with Covid-19


Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is to contact the HSE after he attended a meeting on Monday with his Austrian counterpart, who has since tested positive for Covid-19.

It is believed that Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg caught the virus at the meeting with his European Union counterparts, a spokeswoman for his ministry said today.

It is now feared that the EU Foreign Affairs Council was a so-called super-spreader event as Belgian minister Sophie Wilmes said on Friday she was going into self-isolation with suspected symptoms.

“It is suspected that Schallenberg might have been infected at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday,” the Austrian spokeswoman said, adding that he did not have symptoms and had been tested as a routine measure.

Mr Coveney confirmed that he held a bilateral meeting with Mr Schallenberg following the council.

Around five people attended the meeting which lasted around 15 minutes and involved social distancing of at least two metres.

Mr Coveney said he found out about Mr Schallenberg’s diagnosis earlier today and intends to contact the HSE to establish how he should proceed and if he will be considered a close contact of his Austrian counterpart.

Mr Coveney has been limiting his movements to essential work only, which involves travelling to the Dáil, Cabinet meetings, work in the Department and his own offices.

Meanwhile, Europe is teetering on the brink of another complete lockdown as the second coronavirus wave took a turn for the worse this week

Governments across the continent are facing tough choices as more than a dozen countries reported their highest ever number of new infections.

In France, 18 million people in nine big cities can now be fined if they are not at home by 9pm.

In the Czech Republic, schools have closed and medical students are being drafted into help doctors.

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland all broke daily case records this week.

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The World Health Organization to call for an “uncompromising” effort to stem the spread.

Most governments had relaxed strict lockdowns over the summer to restart economies hit hard by the pandemic’s first wave.

The return of normal activity, from busy bars, schools and universities has fuelled the surge in infections.

Infections across the continent breaking have been reaching 120,000 a day.

In France, which reported more than 30,000 new infections on Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron said a curfew was needed to halt “the parties, the moments of conviviality, the festive evenings … They accelerate the disease. We have to act.”

The government will deploy 12,000 police to enforce it, and spend an extra €1bn to help already hard-hit businesses in the entertainment and hospitality sectors.

“We cannot live normally while the virus is here,” said the prime minister, Jean Castex.

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