31 May 2022

Third member of Ardern's US delegation tests positive for Covid-19

8:32 am on 31 May 2022

A third member of the Prime Minister's delegation has tested positive for Covid-19, and is now isolating in Washington DC.

Jacinda Ardern in California Photo: AFP

Testing was required for tomorrow's White House visit when Ardern will meet President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

This is the third member of the delegation to catch Covid-19 in the United States and they were non-symptomatic and had been returning negative RAT tests.

Yesterday, the prime minister's chief press secretary Andrew Campbell had symptoms and remained in San Francisco when the delegation left and was then confirmed as positive for Covid-19.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs chief executive and secretary Chris Seed who was also in the delegation, reported he had Covid-19 two days before the planned visit with President Joe Biden.

Ardern said that they had enough people to continue with the official meeting at the White House.

California Governor Gavin Newsom also announced he had Covid-19, the day after holding an outdoors event with the prime minister in San Francisco over the weekend.

The logistical challenges continue, with the airforce plane that has been carrying the delegation across America breaking down in the American capital. However, that will not affect Ardern's travel home as she was always going to travel back on a commercial airline.

PM continues to downplay Chinese diplomat's Pacific tour

Meanwhile, the prime minister downplayed the significance of a tour of Pacific nations by China's foreign minister, describing it as "routine" diplomacy.

Wang Yi is on a eight-country tour, signing various agreements spanning security and trade, amid a climate of concern at China's ambitions for involvement in the Pacific.

Ardern said, while the pace and level of engagement from China had stepped up, what was happening was not new.

"What's been described to me is that it has, by and large, been routine diplomatic engagement.

"And I think we do need to just take a step back and remember that of course China has been present in the Pacific, and active in the Pacific, and across infrastructure projects and built relationships over a number of years."

Ardern continued to deny New Zealand was diplomatically missing in action in the Pacific.

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