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French President Macron Tests Positive for COVID-19

December 17, 2020

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, following a week when he has met with numerous European leaders. The French and Spanish prime ministers are among those self-isolating because they had recent contact with him.

Macron took a test "as soon as the first symptoms appeared" and will self-isolate for seven days, the presidency said in a brief statement. It did not detail what symptoms Macron experienced or any treatment he might be receiving.

The 42-year-old president "will continue to work and take care of his activities at a distance," the statement added. His wife, Brigitte, 67, will also self-isolate but has no symptoms and tested negative on Tuesday ahead of a visit to a Paris hospital, her office said. 

Macron attended a European Union summit at the end of last week, where he notably had a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It was not immediately clear what contact tracing efforts were in progress. 

EU leaders met in person on Dec 10-11, for the first time since October. The media has been kept away from the summit venue in Brussels, but television images showed the leaders wearing masks, generally keeping good distancing – preferring elbow bumps to the usual handshakes, kisses and hugs – and occasionally using hand gel dispensers in the room. 

"During the European Council of Thursday 10 and Friday 11 December all sanitary measures were observed and we have not been informed of any other participant or staff present during the summit who tested positive," said an EU official, who was not allowed to be identified publicly.

Macron had lunch on Wednesday with the prime minister of Portugal. There was no immediate comment from Portuguese officials.

The Spanish government, however, announced that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who met Macron in Paris on Monday, will place himself in quarantine until Dec. 24. Sánchez informed Spain´s King Felipe VI of the decision and canceled a Thursday appearance at Spain´s National Library. 

Macron also held the government's weekly Cabinet meeting Wednesday. French Prime Minister Jean Castex's office said that he will also self-isolate for seven days. A day earlier, Macron had lunch with the heads of political groups at the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament. 

The French presidency confirmed that Macron's trip to Lebanon scheduled for next week is being canceled. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who attended last week's EU summit, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both wished Macron a speedy recovery on Twitter.

Macron and other government officials repeatedly say that they are sticking to strict sanitary protocols during the pandemic, including not shaking hands, wearing a mask and keeping distance from other people. 

For several months, masks have been required in all indoor public places in France and everywhere outdoors in big cities. Macron wears one at all public events though usually removes it to give speeches or at press conferences where he is a safe distance from others.

Macron has always been an active president who travels frequently. He has scaled down his activities somewhat this year but continued holding in-person meetings in Paris, other cities in France and in Brussels during France's second virus lockdown that started in October. 

The lockdown, which was lifted partially Tuesday, allowed people to go to school and work but limited travel for most French people and required all restaurants, tourist sites and most other public places to close.

The French president is following national health authorities' recommendations that since September have reduced the self-isolation time from 14 days to seven. Authorities said at the time that this is the period when there is the greatest risk of contagion and that reducing it allows better enforcement of the measure. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to isolate for at least 10 days after symptoms first appear.

Since the pandemic first surfaced in Europe in February, EU leaders have held several summits via videoconference. Many, though, have complained about the lack of privacy attached to video calls and the impossibility of thoroughly resolving thorny issues, like the stalemate over the EU's massive long-term budget and recovery fund, which was resolved in person last week.

In October, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin both had to leave the summit after separately being in contact with people who later tested positive for the coronavirus. 

A summit planned for September was postponed for a week after EU Council President Charles Michel, who chairs the meetings, went into coronavirus quarantine after one of his security officers tested positive for COVID-19.

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