Australia's home affairs minister who met Ivanka Trump tests positive for coronavirus

Australia's Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton speaking at a press briefing at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP, REUTERS) - Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton tested positive for the coronavirus and was quarantined in hospital on Friday (March 13), days after returning from Washington where he met Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr.

Dutton was in the United States last week for a meeting with members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance - Australia, the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand - that included Barr.

He also met with President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka on March 6, according to a photo posted by the Australian embassy in Washington, which shows the pair standing close together.

It is not yet known when Dutton contracted the virus.

"This morning I woke up with a temperature and sore throat," said Dutton, an influential member of the government and a key architect of Australia's controversial immigration laws. "It is the policy of Queensland Health that anyone who tests positive is to be admitted into hospital and I have complied with their advice."

Dutton said he feels "fine" but his diagnosis will raise concerns about whether other members of the Cabinet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have been infected.

Australia has seen around 184 confirmed cases of Covid-19 disease and three fatalities. Authorities expect a rapid increase in coming weeks, with the arrival of the southern hemisphere winter.

Dutton, a former health minister, attended a meeting in Sydney on Tuesday at which he met Prime Minister Morrison and other Cabinet members for a few hours, a spokesman said.

Morrison has advised against gatherings of more than 500 people, but said he would still go to a weekend rugby game, as health officials warned that millions of Australians could get infected within months.

The prime minister will not be tested for coronavirus despite Tuesday's meeting with Dutton, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Morrison's office moved to play down fears up to 20 senior members of the federal government would be forced into self-isolation over the next fortnight, after confirmation they were exposed during Tuesday's Cabinet meeting in Sydney.

"In advice provided to the prime minister this evening, the deputy Chief Medical Officer has reiterated that only people who had close contact with the minister in the preceding 24 hours before he became symptomatic need to self-isolate," Morrison's office said, according to the Herald.

"That does not include the prime minister or any other members of the Cabinet."

Dutton is the first member of the Australian government to return a positive test for Covid-19.

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