1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Two EU foreign ministers test COVID-19 positive after summit

October 17, 2020

The foreign ministers of Belgium and Austria have both tested positive for the coronavirus. The announcements came shortly after a European Union summit they both attended.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, center, speaks with Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, right, during a meeting of European Union foreign ministers at the European Council building in Luxembourg, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020.
Image: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AP Photo/picture-alliance

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes have both tested positive for COVID-19, they announced separately on Saturday.

Schallenberg and Wilmes both attended a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg last Monday.

Belgium's Wilmes (pictured above, right) announced her positive test in a post on Twitter. "My COVID test result is positive. Contamination probably occurred within my family circle given the precautions taken outside my home," she wrote.

However, a spokesman for Austria's Schallenberg said he may have been infected at the EU summit, in comments to Austrian news agency APA. The entire Cabinet of Austria has since been tested as a precaution.

EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, later announced he would go into quarantine as a precaution, wishing Wilmes and Schallenberg a swift recovery.

Concerns over ministers summit

The in-person meeting was also attended by the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell; the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden; the deputy foreign minister of Lithuania; and the political director of Portugal, according to official documents.

A spokesman for German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he had "no close contact" with his Austrian counterpart Schallenberg and that he had recently tested negative.

"A strict hygiene and security concept is applied during Foreign Office business trips. Within this framework, Foreign Minister Maas and all staff members who accompanied him in Luxembourg have been tested routinely and with negative results, most recently yesterday, Friday," he said.

European Council President Charles Michel on Friday defended in-person EU meetings despite a surge in virus cases across the continent. 

EU leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday to discuss Brexit, coronavirus and climate change. Two leaders — Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen — were forced to leave early to go into quarantine after coming into contact with people who were infected.

aw/rs (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Coronavirus overshadows EU summit