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Emmanuel Macron has faced criticism over behaviour ranging from a close-quarters handshake to repeated big-group meals over the last week as he rides out his coronavirus infection in a presidential retreat at Versailles.
Igor Matovič, the Slovakian prime minister, who spent time with the French president at an EU summit last week, tested positive for the virus on Friday. Some other leaders present at the summit reported testing negative, while some were not getting tested and others have not yet announced results.
Macron’s actions have been seen by some in France as setting a bad example as the country experiences an uptick in confirmed cases and doctors warn families to take precautions at Christmas – especially at the dinner table.
While Macron usually wears a mask and adheres to social distancing, the 42-year-old has been captured on camera in recent days violating France’s guidelines.
He shook hands and half-embraced the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurría, at a meeting on Monday. Both were masked, but Macron’s office acknowledged on Friday 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 spread out in a circle in a huge meeting room – Macron, and most of the other leaders, were not masked.
Macron also hosted or took part in multiple large-group meals in the days before testing positive on Thursday, including with members of his centrist party and rival politicians. French people are currently advised to avoid gatherings larger than six people. His office has been contacting those present for the meals, but told some people sitting far from the president they were not considered at risk.
Macron is suffering from fever, cough and fatigue, officials said on Friday. They would not provide details of his treatment. He is staying at the presidential residence of La Lanterne in the former royal city of Versailles, tucked in a grove tightly guarded by police.
Macron’s positive test comes as French health authorities are again recording a rise in infections and are warning of more as French families prepare to get together for 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 released a study on Friday suggesting meal times at home and in public were a major source of contamination. Arnaud Fontanet an epidemiologist at the institute, said on France-Inter radio on Friday that during the holidays “we can see each other, simply not be too numerous, and at critical moments at meals, not too many people at the same table”.
Macron took a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared” and will self-isolate for seven days, in line with national recommendations, the presidency said. He plans to continue working and went ahead with a planned speech via video on Thursday.
The French health minister suggested Macron might have been infected at the EU summit in Brussels last week, but the president had multiple meetings in Paris too.
France had Europe’s first virus case in January, but Macron’s government was criticised for not having enough masks or tests and not confining the population quickly enough. A strict two-month lockdown brought infections down, and France sent children back to school and their parents back to work.
But infections surged again this autumn so he declared a new, softer lockdown in October aimed at relieving pressure on hospitals. The measures were relaxed slightly this week, though restaurants, tourist sites, gyms and some other facilities remain closed.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Macron faces criticism over Covid behaviour before positive test | World news