EU president leaves summit after just 30 minutes as team member tests positive for Covid

Ursula von der Leyen was in a room with all 27 EU presidents and prime ministers before leaving ‘as a precaution’

Jon Stone
Thursday 15 October 2020 15:57 BST
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen steps out of a car as she arrives at an EU summit in Brussels (FILE)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen steps out of a car as she arrives at an EU summit in Brussels (FILE) (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The president of the European Commission has had to leave a major EU summit after just 30 minutes, in order to self-isolate.

Ursula von der Leyen said a member of her team had tested positive for coronavirus and that she was leaving “as a precaution”.

The top EU official had spent the morning in bilateral meetings with the Portuguese and Czech prime ministers, and spent time greeting all 27 EU leaders at the Brussels meeting shortly before leaving.

She was due to give a press conference later on Thursday with her European Council counterpart Charles Michel, where the pair would have given an update on EU leaders’ discussion about Brexit at the meeting. 

The president has so far personally tested negative for the virus.

Ms Von der Leyen spoke with Boris Johnson on Wednesday night, but the conversation was conducted by video link rather than in person.

“I have just been informed that a member of my front office has tested positive to COVID-19 this morning. I myself have tested negative,” Ms Von der Leyen said.

“However as a precaution I am immediately leaving the European Council to go into self-isolation.”

The incident comes after EU High Representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell also announced this week that he would be self-isolating, along with the Commission’s crisis management chief Janez Lenarčič.

Their announcement came after a member of a delegation travelling with them tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday.

Ms von der Leyen also had had to self-isolate for 24 hours earlier this month after coming into contact with another person confirmed to have the virus.

Belgium, where the European Commission is based, has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in Europe, with Brussels considered to be a particular hot-spot.

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