March 24, 2020 / 10:24 PM / 2 months ago

Pompeo will not self-isolate after Afghanistan, Qatar trip

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not self-isolate after returning from Afghanistan and Qatar on Tuesday because neither country was on a U.S. government list calling for such precautions when he visited, a State Department medical official said.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks to the media at the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said Pompeo’s choreographed movements in both places and the prior screening of people who came in contact with him meant it was a low or no-risk environment for him to catch the disease.

Asked if Pompeo or his staff planned to self-quarantine for 14 days following their return Tuesday, the official told reporters in a call: “No, they are not,” and added: “There’s no intent to quarantine anyone because it’s not indicated.”

However, Qatar was added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Level 3 list on Tuesday, which says visitors “should stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing.”

The official made references to an earlier version of the CDC list, seemingly unaware of Tuesday’s update.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Qatar’s addition to the list would change Pompeo’s recommended behavior or lead to his self-isolation for two weeks.

Pompeo on Monday announced a $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political adversary Abdullah Abdullah to end a feud that has helped jeopardize a U.S.-led peace effort.

Pompeo met both men, both separately and together, while in Kabul on Monday and, on his way back to Washington, met for 75 minutes at a military base in Qatar with Taliban officials, including their top negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund.

The official stressed that Pompeo was in carefully controlled environments during his trip and that all those who flew with him aboard a U.S. government plane and met him in Afghanistan were screened for symptoms such as fever.

“According to the CDC guidance, this is either low or no risk,” the official said. “You can find in the guidance itself - that being within six feet for a prolonged period of time with a lab confirmed coronavirus patient. Okay, well we can all agree that didn’t happen,” he said.

A Reuters correspondent traveled with Pompeo on his plane to Afghanistan and Doha. Throughout the 51-hour trip, both the secretary and his staff, flew on helicopters, spent time in rooms with many officials and posed with U.S. personnel for photographers in settings where it was impossible to practise a full social distancing.

The official did not specifically address whether all those who met Pompeo in Qatar had been screened but said it was a “very controlled environment.”

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Tom Brown

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