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

Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

PARIS, Dec 17 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for coronavirus, his office said on Thursday, sparking a track and trace effort targeting EU leaders and senior officials who met him in recent days.

By Elizabeth Pineau and Michel Rose

“The President of the Republic has been diagnosed positive for COVID-19 today,” Macron’s office said in a statement. “This diagnosis was made following a PCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms.”

Macron would self-isolate for the next seven days and would continue to run the country remotely. His wife Brigitte was also self-isolating.

The French leader’s office, which declined to give details of his condition or which symptoms he had, said all Macron’s trips had been cancelled, including a Dec. 22 visit to Lebanon.

Macron attended a European summit late last week at which he met a host of EU leaders to discuss the European Union’s budget, climate change and Turkey.

While the leaders were gathering in the summit room and initially mingling with their face masks on, they take them off once they sit down to talks, although remain quite far apart at their round table.

Macron and his wife Brigitte also hosted a private dinner with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, during which he awarded him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.

This week Macron had lunch with European Council President Charles Michel as well as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

Sanchez’s office said he would quarantine until Dec. 24. An EU spokesman said Michel, would self-isolate as a precaution.

Macron was also photographed shaking hands with OECD chief Angel Gurria, who is 70.

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

FRENCH COVID MEASURES

Macron’s positive test was announced just two days after France relaxed measures to curb a second wave of COVID-19, replacing a nationwide lockdown with a curfew.

French Health authorities on Wednesday reported the highest increase in cases since Nov. 21. So far, 59,361 people have died in France from COVID-19.

The government on Wednesday outlined its vaccination rollout programme that it hopes will bring the virus under control over the next six months.

The French presidency said Macron and his team were trying to assess where he could have contracted the virus.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will also self isolate after coming into contact with Macron over the last few days, although he has tested negative, his office said.

Political party chiefs from France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, were also in isolation as they had a lunch with Macron earlier this week.

In September, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was the highest profile cabinet member until now to get the virus. He said after recovering that it had been a particularly tough ordeal.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Alex Richardson and Jon Boyle)

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