EU Covid crisis: Top officials must self-isolate after VDL’s meeting with Portuguese minis
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And the news is certain to focus attention on Mrs von der Leyen’s controversial decision to travel to the country for talks which could have taken place by video conference. Mr Leao has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said on Saturday, a day after he took part in an in-person meeting in the country’s capital with top EU officials including the European Commission President herself.
The 46-year-old minister has so far shown no symptoms and will continue to work from home during a period of self-isolation, a statement from his ministry said.
Self-isolation could last anything from 10 to 14 days.
Mr Leao’s positive test result was announced more than 24 hours after he attended the meeting at the Belem Cultural Centre on Friday to discuss Portugal’s top priorities during its six-month EU presidency, which began this month.
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Prime Minister Antonio Costa was also at the meeting, as were several other ministers and secretaries of state.
Mr Costa recently had to self-isolate for 14 days after a lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron, who subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Several EU officials travelled to Lisbon for the meeting, including von der Leyen, the Commission’s executive vice president Frans Timmermans and competition chief Margrethe Vestager – all of whom were present at the meeting.
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Official images of the meeting shared on the government website showed it took place in a large room and all participants wore face masks.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission told Express.co.uk: “The Portuguese authorities have informed us that Finance Minister Joao Leao tested positive for COVID-19 after the end of the Presidency visit by the College.
“President von der Leyen and the College wish him a speedy recovery.
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Based on the information received, European Vice President Margarethe Vestager, the EU’s trade chief, Valdis Dombrovskis, who is the trade supremo, and Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms are considered contact persons.
The spokeswoman said: “They have been informed and will respect the Belgian rules for quarantine as of today.”
As such, they will be tested on day seven, and quarantined until the result of test at least – although they will receive an “exemption to exercise essential functions”, the spokesman said.
Express.co.uk has asked why Mrs von der Leyen herself is not thought to be at risk.
Prior of her trip, Mrs von der Leyen told Europeans to be “very disciplined” and to obey all restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the pandemic.
She said: “This is serious, we must remain vigilant, we must monitor and we must be very disciplined.”
On Friday, Romanian MEP Cristian Terhes suggested she had not needed to travel to Portugal for the meetings, but could instead have talked by video link.
He said: He said: “It’s an act of outrageous hypocrisy for the College of Commissioners to visit Lisbon for a ceremony and meetings a day after the Portuguese authorities issue a strict stay at home order for the tax-paying citizens.
“Surely the commissioners can Zoom like everybody else?
“A classic example of do as I say, not as I do.”
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