July 24, 2020 / 2:52 PM / 14 days ago

Lebanese official finds he has COVID-19 at lunch with France's Le Drian

FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Affair Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wears a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as he meets with Lebanon's Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A senior Lebanese official said on Friday he discovered he had tested positive for COVID-19 during a lunch with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“I received a telephone call from the hospital saying the test was positive, so naturally I left the lunch and informed all those present,” Hadi Hashem, head of the Lebanese foreign minister’s office, told the local OTV broadcaster.

Le Drian met with Lebanese officials on Thursday as part of an effort to urge economic reforms to the crisis-hit economy. His spokesperson had no immediate comment on the matter.

Speaking by video, Hashem told OTV he had taken a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test ahead of a planned trip to Denmark, but was now self-isolating at home until Monday before another test.

“The result was unexpected but the most important thing is that the virus level is low and not contagious,” he said.

After Hashem’s diagnosis, Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti and his political affairs director also underwent PCR tests, but their results came back negative, a health ministry source told Reuters.

Lebanon recorded 147 new infections, bringing its total to 3,404 infections and 46 deaths from the novel coronavirus since February, according to official data on Friday.

The country’s health minister, Hamad Hasan, told Reuters the high number of new cases and the recording of three deaths in the last 24 hours point to a “critical phase” that could require authorities to reimpose some coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Reporting by Laila Bassam and Yara Abi Nader; Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Aurora Ellis; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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