Macron tests positive for COVID-19, forcing executives to self-isolate

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PARIS (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, his office said, prompting a monitoring and traceability effort across Europe following meetings between the French leader and chiefs of EU government in recent days.

Macron, 42, was ruling the country from a distance after entering quarantine at the Elysee Palace, the presidency said. His wife Brigitte was also isolating herself.

“This diagnosis was made following a PCR test done at the onset of the first symptoms,” Macron’s office said, declining to give further details about his conditions or the symptoms he was exhibiting.

Macron will cancel all upcoming trips, including a December 22 visit to Lebanon where the French president has led international efforts to resolve a deep-rooted political crisis.

But it’s closer to home that Macron’s COVID infection prompted other leaders to take their own tests.

Macron joined all but two of the European Union’s 27 leaders at a summit in Brussels last week to discuss climate change, the EU budget and Turkey.

Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and others were first seen mingling in the summit room with their face masks on. German officials said Merkel wore a mask during the summit and complied with COVID rules.

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The German government said Merkel tested negative for the coronavirus after the EU summit.

Most recently, Macron had lunch with European Council President Charles Michel, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and OECD chief Angel Gurria, 70, on Monday. He also met with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Wednesday.

Costa was in isolation and awaiting test results, despite showing no symptoms, his office said. Sanchez’s office said he would be quarantined until December 24. An EU spokesperson said Michel would self-isolate as a precaution.

MILD SYMPTOMS

Macron’s illness comes as Britain-EU negotiations on a post-Brexit deal near their tipping point, with France saying it would rather veto a bad deal than sacrifice its fishermen.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent Macron his best wishes.

“Sorry to hear that my friend @EmmanuelMacron has tested positive for coronavirus. We wish you all a speedy recovery, ”Johnson said on Twitter.

Johnson himself caught COVID-19 in March and fell seriously ill. He tried to overcome the illness but ended up in intensive care.

Macron leads a healthy and active life, say his collaborators. He exercises regularly and does not smoke.

France has one of the highest death tolls from COVID-19 in Western Europe. The disease has killed nearly 60,000 people and Macron’s positive test comes just after France replaced a nationwide lockdown with a curfew, even as new cases show signs of ticking again.

Officials at the Elysee Palace said Macron and his team were trying to assess where he might have contracted the virus.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Macron detected the first symptoms on Wednesday evening.

Two days earlier, the president had also held a four-hour debate with the members of a citizens’ climate convention. Macron wore a face mask throughout the event which several dozen people attended.

On Wednesday, he chaired a cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will also self-isolate after coming into contact with Macron in recent days, despite having tested negative, his office said.

Heads of political parties in the lower house of the French parliament, the National Assembly, were also in isolation as they had lunch with Macron earlier this week.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was the most prominent politician in France to have contracted the virus so far. He said after his recovery that it had been a particularly difficult ordeal.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Written by John Irish; Editing by Alex Richardson, Jon Boyle and Alexandra Hudson

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