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White House staffer tests positive for coronavirus after UAE-Israel signing ceremony

Trump revealed that a White House staffer tested positive for covid-19 [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 September, 2020

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US President Donald Trump revealed that a White House worker tested positive for coronavirus.




US President Donald Trump revealed that a White House staffer tested positive for coronavirus following a signing ceremony for the UAE-Israel normalisation deal brokered by Washington.

“It’s not anybody that was near me,” he told journalists at his press conference.

“It was one person,” he went on to say. “It was not a person that I was associated with.”

Before the US president could say anything further, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany interjected and said they would not be revealing the staff member’s name.

“We’re not going to confirm the identity of the individual. It did not affect the event and press was not around,” she said.

The White House held a signing ceremony on Tuesday to cement its deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

According to reports, more than 800 people attended the White House ceremony, and the chairs were not organised in a socially distanced manner.

This isn’t the first time Trump was in the vicinity of someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

The president, along with senior White House staff receive daily coronavirus tests after two members of staff tested positive for the virus in May.

Controversial normalisation

The event on the White House South Lawn, attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE, was the first time Arab nations established relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

"All sides are excited," a senior Trump administration official told reporters at the time.

"Coronavirus (is) in the background of everybody's minds, although everybody will have been tested," he said. So "if they are to engage in any sort of physical contact that will be understood."

For the Mideast, the deals dubbed the Abraham Accords mark a definitive shift in a decades-old status quo where Arab countries have tried to maintain unity against Israel over its treatment of the stateless Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders on Sunday urged demonstrations in the occupied territories and outside embassies of the United States, Israel, Bahrain and the UAE to protest what they called "shameful agreements."

Israel is in normalisation talks with five other Muslim-majority countries, a Palestinian Authority official has said according to Israeli news media, following accords struck between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Oman, Sudan, Comoros, Djibouti and Mauritania are said to be in talks with Israel to normalise relations, Palestinian minister Ahmad Majdalani has said in comments shared by Israeli Kann News.

None of the five countries mentioned have as of yet indicated that they intend to sign a normalisation treaty with Israel.

Read more: As Arab countries edge towards Israel, what's next for the Palestinian national movement?

But Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said last month that Oman could also reach an agreement with Israel soon.

Oman also welcomed the Bahrain-Israel normalisation deal signed in Washington this week.

Sudan is believed to be on the cusp of fully recognising Israel.

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