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Two US lawmakers exposed to virus before meeting Trump

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Republican Representative Doug Collins, who met and shook hands with Mr Trump last Friday at the headquarters of the Centres for Disease Control, said he had been informed he had been in contact with a person who tested positive for the new coronavirus at the conference last month.

[WASHINGTON] Two US lawmakers with recent close contacts with President Donald Trump announced Monday that they were in self-quarantine after being exposed to the new coronavirus at a late-February conservative conference.

Republican Representative Doug Collins, who met and shook hands with Mr Trump last Friday at the headquarters of the Centres for Disease Control, said he had been informed he had been in contact with a person who tested positive for the new coronavirus at the conference last month.

A second representative, Matt Gaetz, who traveled with Mr Trump on Air Force One on Monday, likewise announced his self-quarantine after being notified that he too had come in close contact with the infected person at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) 11 days ago.

Neither Mr Collins nor Mr Gaetz reported any symptoms of the virus.

"I have decided to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution," Mr Collins said.

"He received testing today and expects results soon," Mr Gaetz's office said on his Twitter account.

Mr Collins was with Mr Trump last Friday visiting the Atlanta, Georgia CDC headquarters where they were briefed on the virus's spread.

A photograph published by the Atlanta Constitution-Journal shows the two shaking hands at what appears to be an airport during the visit.

The newspaper said Mr Collins was also in close contact with the state's governor, Brian Kemp, and Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler - who Mr Collins is challenging for election in November.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

Five US lawmakers have now said they are distancing themselves from others after coming in contact with coronavirus-infected individuals.

The other three are Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Republican Representative Paul Gosar, both of whom also were exposed at the CPAC conference, and Democratic congresswoman Julia Brownley.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Trump downplayed the threat of the disease, which has recorded more than 600 cases of the Covid-19 virus in the US, and 26 deaths.

"So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!" Mr Trump tweeted.

AFP