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Irish Prime Minister Learns He Tested Positive for COVID While Attending Event with Biden and Pelosi

  President Joe Biden met virtually Thursday with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin after the visiting leader learned he had tested positi...

 President Joe Biden met virtually Thursday with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin after the visiting leader learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 while attending an event with Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, scrambling plans to mark St. Patrick’s Day at the White House.

“I’m really deeply sorry for the inconvenience that we have to meet virtually this year,” Biden said to Martin, who dialed in by video while isolating at Blair House across the street from the White House. The traditional crystal bowl of shamrocks gifted to the U.S. president was displayed next to the television monitor set up next to Biden’s chair in the Oval Office.

Biden and Martin joined to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has jolted the world and brought the U.S. and its European allies to unite in condemnation and in placing stiff sanctions on Russia. 

“We have to be united,” Biden said. “We certainly are. But Putin’s brutality and what his troops are doing in Ukraine is just inhumane.”

Biden also reaffirmed U.S. support for the Good Friday accords, which were signed in 1998 and helped end sectarian violence that had raged for three decades over the issue of Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland or remaining part of the U.K. 

The virtual meeting kicked off a daylong set of festivities.

Martin will sit out the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon at the Capitol, hosted by Pelosi, that Biden will attend. Biden will go ahead with a White House reception planned for Thursday evening, but Martin will not participate. 

Martin learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday evening while attending an event with Biden and Pelosi, but the White House said the president was not considered a close contact of Martin.

Pelosi said she sat with Martin at the dinner. She said he was wearing a mask but took it off as they sat together to eat. It was during the appetizer that he was called aside. He later left the table, right before she was to present him with an award.

As for her own health, Pelosi said she is tested almost every day and will continue following the guidelines of the Capitol’s Office of the Attending Physician on COVID-19. She said she did not know how long she sat with the prime minister.

Biden, meanwhile, said he was glad to see Martin “for seven and a half minutes” at the event.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “close contact” with an infected person as spending 15 minutes or more with that person over a 24-hour period. The CDC says people with close contact do not need to quarantine if they are up to date on their vaccines, but they should wear a mask around other people for 10 days after their contact. 

Pelosi used the experience to push additional federal coronavirus aid after a funding package sought by Biden fell apart last week. She noted that former President Barack Obama had recently tested positive for the virus as well.

“We want to move on, but we don’t want to move on and leave people behind,” she said. “We need the money.”

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