July 24, 2020 / 10:40 AM / 15 days ago

Bulgarian PM and his EU summit delegates test negative for coronavirus

SOFIA (Reuters) - Second coronavirus tests came in negative for Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and his political team who attended an EU summit this week, the government said on Friday, after one member of the delegation earlier tested positive.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov makes a statement on arrival for an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 20, 2020. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS

European Union leaders and delegates largely wore face masks and observed social distancing during the marathon summit in Brussels, at which they agreed on a plan to help member states’ economies emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.

But an infection in one delegation would have raised worries about contagion among other attendees.

The government press office said in an initial statement on Friday that Borissov, 61, had gone into quarantine after the head of his political office, Denitsa Zheleva, tested positive for the novel coronavirus late on Thursday.

Zheleva was part of the team that attended the Brussels talks, the first face-to-face meeting between all the leaders of the 27 EU states since the pandemic swept Europe and led to widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Bulgaria’s Military Medical Academy, which tested the delegation to the summit, said Zheleva’s first test came in as “suspiciously positive” and had to be repeated.

Later on Friday morning, the government press office said second coronavirus tests for Borissov and Zheleva were negative, as were second tests for other members of the summit delegation.

“Taking into account the EU summit and the contacts there, Borissov and Zheleva will be tested again in the coming days,” the Military Medical Academy said in a statement.

The EU summit team was tested prior to departure from Sofia, and on Thursday and Friday, a government spokeswoman said. The tests often give false results so the team may be tested for a third time, she said.

Everyone working at the government’s main building in the capital Sofia, including Borissov and the summit team, was tested for the virus this week because two members of the chancellery’s technical staff tested positive on Monday, the government said.

On Friday, two more people in the administration tested positive, it said.

The Bulgarian delegation returned home from Brussels on Tuesday afternoon.

Bulgaria has seen an increase in coronavirus infections in the past month. On Friday, the Balkan country had 268 new cases, bringing the total to 9,853 including 329 deaths.

Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Alison Williams and Timothy Heritage

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