A senior Trump administration official has tested positive for coronavirus after returning from a diplomatic trip to Europe that saw high-level talks in the UK, France and other countries.
Peter Berkowitz, the director of policy planning at the State Department, had tested negative before the start of the trip that took him to No 10 and the Foreign Office in London, government offices in Paris and a meeting with his Hungarian counterparts in Budapest earlier this month.
It is unclear when Mr Berkowitz first tested positive for the virus, with his diagnosis first reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday.
An unnamed official told the newspaper that Mr Berkowitz was inconsistent in following Covid-19 protocols during the trip.
But the State Department, which confirmed Mr Berkowitz’s positive test result, denied the suggestion that he hadn’t followed guidelines.
“During all of Director Berkowitz’s engagements abroad, he consistently followed the mask-wearing protocol demonstrated by his counterparts from the host government. As Secretary (Mike) Pompeo has said, we take the threat posed by Covid-19 very seriously, and extend every precaution to protect each member of our team as we carry out our diplomatic engagement during these unprecedented times,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to US media.
“We are closely monitoring daily Covid-19 developments, and continue to apply the best science and the current public health recommendations to support the entire team as we continue to achieve results on behalf of the American people.”
The development follows hard on the heels of the comments made by the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who on Sunday had said that the US is "not going to control" the coronavirus pandemic, as cases surged across the country.
"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," Mr Meadows had told CNN.
The White House is currently facing its own potential outbreak of the virus, after at least five people working with Vice President Mike Pence's tested positive.
Yet despite record new infections, the White House science office on Tuesday listed “ending Covid-19” as one of the key achievements of Donald Trump’s first term.