Covid-19 Live Updates: French President Tests Positive as Global Rollout of Vaccine Continues
President Emmanuel Macron of France has tested positive for the coronavirus, the French presidency said on Thursday, just as his government was trying to lift lockdown restrictions before Christmas and avoid another wave of infections.
“This diagnosis was established after a RT-PCR test that was carried out as soon as the first symptoms appeared,” a statement from the presidency said. It did not reveal what those symptoms were and when they first appeared.
Mr. Macron will work in isolation for the next seven days, the statement added. The office of Jean Castex, the country’s prime minister, said that he would also work from isolation because of his recent proximity with Mr. Macron.
Mr. Macron, 42, is not known to suffer from any medical problems. But the health of French presidents is traditionally a closely guarded secret, and France’s 24-hour news channels immediately began speculating on Thursday morning about how sick he might be.
Mr. Macron’s positive test has also affected other leaders across the continent, since he met with several foreign and domestic officials in the past week, including at the European Council in Brussels on Thursday and Friday and in meetings with Prime Ministers Pedro Sánchez of Spain and António Costa of Portugal this week.
Mr. Sánchez’s office said on Thursday that he would self-isolate until Dec. 24, 10 days after his last meeting with Mr. Macron, and would also be tested for the virus. Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, will go into isolation, having met with Mr. Macron in Paris on Monday. While in Brussels, the French leader also held discussions in close quarters with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
Mr. Macron held a weekly meeting with his cabinet members on Wednesday, but the French presidency said that the officials were distanced and wore masks. Several of his ministers tested positive for the virus in the spring. And his wife, Brigitte Macron, isolated herself for several days a few months ago after being in close contact with an infected person.
Until now, Mr. Macron had managed to steer France through the pandemic without being forced into self-isolation because of potential exposure.
France has recently found itself at the heart of the virus’s second wave in Europe, forcing the country to delay loosening restrictions on movement and business. In October, it became the first nation in Europe to impose a second nationwide lockdown, which it is now starting to slowly lift ahead of Christmas.
Across the continent, there is deepening concern that the social interactions that come with holiday celebrations could worsen the current outbreak, similar to what happened in the United States around Thanksgiving.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said on Twitter on Thursday that inoculations would begin across the European Union on Dec. 27, 28 and 29. But the continent has struggled under the weight of a second wave of infections, leading leaders to reimpose widespread restrictions in recent weeks.
In Germany, Ms. Merkel imposed a nationwide lockdown that will extend over Dec. 25, snuffing out hopes for a reprieve after the country’s beloved Christmas markets were shuttered this month. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic have also imposed lockdowns, and Italy is leaning toward one.
Constant Méheut, Megan Specia and Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting.