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French president Emmanuel Macron tests positive for coronavirus

Emmanuel Macron has been diagnosed with Covid-19 after developing symptoms, the Élysée Palace has announced, forcing several other European leaders who had recently met the French president into self-isolation.

In a brief statement on Thursday, the palace said Macron had a PCR test as soon as the symptoms had appeared and would “self-isolate for seven days in line with the health protocol applicable to everyone”.

The statement said the president, who is 42, would “continue to work and carry out his activities remotely”, but gave no further details of his condition. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Élysée source said Macron was “feeling well”.

Several European leaders who have met Macron this week said after the announcement that they would be going into quarantine.

The office of the Portuguese prime minister, António Costa, who had a working lunch at the Élysée on Monday in the run-up to the Portuguese presidency of the EU, said he had cancelled all official meetings and trips and was awaiting the result of a test.

The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, who along with the president of the European council, Charles Michel, had lunch with Macron at the Elysée on Monday, suspended public activities and would be in quarantine until 24 December, his office said.

Michel tested negative on Tuesday but would self-isolate as a precaution, a council spokesman said in Brussels. A third guest, José Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, will do likewise.

Several French politicians were also affected. Macron presided over the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, although French media reported that strict physical distancing rules were observed and there was thought to be little risk of infection.

The prime minister, Jean Castex, tested negative on Thursday but would self-isolate for seven days after having recently spent time in contact with Macron, his office said. The health minister, Olivier Véran, will present the government’s vaccination plan to the upper house of parliament in place of Castex.

The speaker of the French parliament, Richard Ferrand, is also self-isolating, as is Macron’s wife, Brigitte, who tested negative on Tuesday and is displaying no symptoms. Macron has cancelled a planned trip to Lebanon next week, where he was due to visit French troops and Lebanese officials.

Macron is the latest of several world leaders to test positive for the virus, including the US president, Donald Trump, who received treatment in hospital in October, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, who contracted Covid-19 in July, and the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who was placed in intensive care – though not on a ventilator – in March.

The Russian prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, was forced to step down in April and hand over to his deputy, while the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, was also diagnosed in March. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, had to self-isolate after her doctor tested positive the same month.

Jérôme Marty, the president of a leading French doctors’ union, told French radio that the country was “lucky to have a young president”. Macron was “in a position where he is obliged to meet a great many people”, Marty said, “and the more people you meet, the more you risk being contaminated”.

Zero risk “does not exist”, Marty said. “We can take all possible precautions to protect ourselves, but the virus can still find a way to get through,” he said. “We see it in our healthcare facilities, we do all we possibly can to protect patients and staff – but it still, occasionally, passes from ward to ward.”

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