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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tests positive for COVID-19 with mild symptoms: Pentagon

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has contracted COVID-19 and will remain quarantined at home for at least five days, he said in a statement released by the US Department of Defense on Sunday (local time).

"I tested positive this morning for COVID-19. I requested the test today after exhibiting symptoms while at home on leave," Austin said, adding that his "symptoms are mild" and he is following his physician's directions.

"In keeping with those directions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, I will quarantine myself at home for the next five days," he added.

The Pentagon chief said that he is going to attend upcoming key meetings virtually.

"Stemming the spread of this virus, safeguarding our workforce and ensuring my own speedy and safe recovery remain my priorities. To the degree possible, I plan to attend virtually this coming week those key meetings and discussions required to inform my situational awareness and decision making. I will retain all authorities. Deputy Secretary Hicks will represent me as appropriate in other matters," the statement read.

He specified that the last time he met with US President Joe Biden was on December 21 and the last time he visited the Pentagon was on Thursday.

"My last meeting with President Biden occurred on Tuesday, December 21st, more than a week before I began to experience symptoms. I tested negative that very morning. I have not been in the Pentagon since Thursday, where I met briefly – and only – with a few members of my staff. We were properly masked and socially distanced throughout," Austin said in the statement.