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Irish prime minister, who attended Biden event, tests positive for Covid

Prime Minister Micheál Martin interacted briefly with President Joe Biden at the Ireland Funds Gala in Washington.
Image: Taoiseach Michael Martin, visit to UK
Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin at the St. Patrick's Day parade in London on Sunday.James Manning / PA Images via Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

Ireland’s prime minister tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday before he interacted with President Joe Biden at a Washington gala.

Biden briefly interacted with the Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, at the Ireland Funds Gala, where both leaders were masked, a source familiar with the situation said.

Their interaction did not meet the 15-minute close contact definition, the source said.

Martin left the event after the positive Covid test was returned and is not experiencing symptoms, the source said.

Martin was among several hundred people at Wednesday’s event. He had been scheduled to participate in several events with Biden on Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day. They include a bilateral meeting, a Friends of Ireland luncheon and a shamrock presentation at the White House, according to Biden’s public schedule for Thursday.

The Irish prime minister "is feeling well and is currently self-isolating on public health advice,” a press secretary for the Irish government said. “We are exploring alternatives to the in-person programme of events.”

Martin tested positive Wednesday evening following a PCR test, but he had earlier tested negative in the afternoon, as well as on Sunday, before traveling to the U.S., the spokesperson said, adding that the Taoiseach was given the additional test Wednesday after a member of his delegation received a positive result.

He found out about the positive test when he was pulled out of a dinner event Wednesday evening where he was sitting next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

At her weekly press conference Thursday, Pelosi confirmed she did interact with the prime minister and said he was initially wearing a mask when he first sat down at the table and then removed his mask when they were eating appetizers. Pelosi said she's not worried about her health, especially since she's tested for Covid often because of frequent meetings with the president.

Biden, who has Irish roots, spoke on stage Wednesday for around 15 minutes, according to video and a press pool report. A White House official said the president “was not a close contact.”

On Tuesday, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, tested positive for Covid.

Harris tested negative Tuesday, her office said.

Biden, 79, tested negative for the virus Sunday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing this week.