France’s Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19, forcing several European leaders to self-isolate after coming into contact with him.
The 42-year-old president was tested after developing symptoms and will now self-isolate for seven days, the Elysée Palace said in a statement.
He “is still in charge” of running the country and will work remotely.
European Council chief Charles Michel and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez are among the leaders having to self-isolate.
France this week ended a six-week national lockdown, replacing the measure with a curfew to help deal with soaring cases.
There have been nearly 2.5 million confirmed cases in the country since the epidemic began, with more than 59,400 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
France plans to start rolling out its coronavirus vaccination programme from 27 December.
Who else needs to self-isolate?
“The President of the Republic has been diagnosed positive for Covid-19 today,” the Elysée said on Thursday morning. The diagnosis was made following a “test performed at the onset of the first symptoms”, the statement added.
It is not yet known how Mr Macron caught the virus but his office said it was identifying any close contacts he had made in recent days.
These include Prime Minister Jean Castex, 55, and parliamentary speaker Richard Ferrand, 58, who are both self-isolating, their offices confirmed.
Mr Castex, who is not showing any symptoms and has tested negative, was due to introduce the government’s Covid vaccination policy in the Senate on Thursday – now Health Minister Olivier Véran is doing it instead.
The French president’s wife Brigitte Macron, who is 67, is also self-isolating but has no symptoms.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, 48, and the EU’s Charles Michel, 44, are both self-isolating after meeting the French president for lunch on Monday.
The Spanish prime minister’s office said he would be tested “without delay” and would “respect the quarantine until 24 December”. Mr Michel returned a negative test on Tuesday, his spokesman said.
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, 59, has also cancelled all official trips, and is isolating and awaiting test results, after a working lunch in Paris with President Macron on Wednesday.
Mr Macron attended a two-day European Council heads of state summit, which finished last Friday.
However, the French president is considered to have become potentially contagious as of Monday evening, a senior EU official told the BBC.
All sanitary measures were observed during last week’s meeting and the council has not been informed of any other participants testing positive, the source added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wore a mask at the summit and tested negative for the virus on Tuesday, German officials said after hearing the news about President Macron.
A French presidential spokeswoman confirmed that all of Mr Macron’s forthcoming trips, including a scheduled visit to Lebanon on 22 December, had been cancelled.
The Elysée is doing everything to project an image of business as usual. Already President Macron is back at work, and a meeting with his finance and foreign ministers has gone ahead as planned – though with the visitors in an adjacent room.
It’s being emphasised that the workings of government have already been radically adapted for Covid – with video conferences now the norm – so unless the president takes a turn for the worse no-one will notice much of a difference.
And meanwhile – as with any ordinary citizen – the trace-and-test system has kicked in, and numerous dignitaries foreign and domestic have been told the bad news that they have to self-isolate.
The message is clear: Emmanuel Macron may be the president of France – but for the purposes of the virus he is a human like any other. So he will behave according to the rules.
What’s the latest on vaccines in the EU?
On Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed EU countries could start vaccinating people against the virus from 27 December, if the EU regulator approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is due to meet on Monday to evaluate the vaccine which is already being rolled out in the US and UK.
It’s Europe’s moment.
On 27, 28 and 29 December vaccination will start across the EU.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 17, 2020
The EU says it plans to carry out a co-ordinated vaccination campaign across its 27 member states to ensure fair access to doses. However, it will be down to each state to determine who gets priority for the injections.
Earlier this week, France eased national lockdown restrictions imposed to tackle its second wave of the pandemic.
However, infection rates still remain high and a daily 20:00-06:00 curfew was imposed. The new measures have forced restaurants, cafes, theatres and cinemas to close.
On Wednesday, France registered more than 17,700 new cases.
Which other world leaders have caught Covid?
- Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) died on Monday, four weeks after he tested positive
- US President Donald Trump contracted the virus in October. He was given an experimental drugs cocktail and returned to the White House after three nights in hospital
- Polish President Andrzej Duda contracted the virus in October and went into self-isolation
- Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has spent two months in hospital in Germany after catching the disease in October – last week he appeared in video for the first time since testing positive, saying he hopes to return to Algeria soon
- Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei tested positive in September – despite calling himself “high-risk” he did not appear to suffer a severe case
- Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil tested positive in July and spent more than two weeks quarantining in his residence
- In June, the outgoing President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, died of an illness suspected by many to be Covid-19
- Russia’s Prime Minster Mikhail Mishustin contracted the virus in April and was admitted to hospital with moderate to severe symptoms
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive in March – he spent three nights in intensive care in a London hospital, later saying he owed the health workers there his life
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