While Macron generally wears a mask and adheres to social distancing rules, and has insisted his virus strategy is driven by science, the 42-year-old president has been caught on camera in recent days violating the guidelines himself. from France.
He shook hands and half hugged the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ángel Gurría, in a meeting on Monday. Both were masked, but Macron’s office acknowledged on Friday that the move was a “mistake.”
Last week, Macron spent two days in intense negotiations at an EU summit in Brussels with the leaders of the other 26 EU countries. Video excerpts released by the EU showed the leaders scattered in a circle in a huge meeting room: Macron and most of the other leaders were not masked.
Macron also hosted or participated in multiple large-group meals in the days leading up to Thursday’s positive test, including with members of his centrist party and rival politicians, while the French are currently advised to avoid gatherings of more than six people. His office has been reaching out to those present for meals, but he told some people sitting away from the president that they are not considered at risk.
Macron suffers from a fever, cough and fatigue, presidential officials said Friday. They did not provide details about their treatment. He is staying in the presidential residence of La Lanterne in the old royal city of Versailles, hidden in a grove heavily guarded by the police.
Macron’s positive test comes as French health authorities again see an increase in infections and warn of more as French families prepare to reunite for the Christmas and New Year festivities. France reported another 18,254 new infections on Thursday and its death toll is just under 60,000.
France’s Pasteur Institute published a study on Friday suggesting that meal times at home and in public are a major source of contamination. Pasteur’s epidemiologist, Arnaud Fontanet, said on France-Inter radio on Friday that during the holidays “we can see each other, just not be too numerous, and at critical meal times, there are not too many people at the same table.”
Macron underwent a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared” on Thursday morning and will self-isolate himself for seven days, in accordance with the recommendations of national health authorities, the presidency said. Macron plans to keep working and went ahead with a planned speech via video conference on Thursday.
The French health minister suggested that Macron might have been infected at the EU summit in Brussels last week, but Macron also had multiple meetings in Paris.
France had the first virus case in Europe in January, but the Macron government was criticized for not having enough masks or tests and not confining the population quickly enough. A strict two-month lockdown reduced infections and France sent the children to school and their parents to work.
But infections picked up again this fall, so he declared a new, softer lockdown in October aimed at easing pressure on hospitals. The measures were relaxed slightly this week, although restaurants, tourist sites, gyms and some other facilities remain closed.