“Had I not respected the rules, the barrier measures, I would have caught it much faster and, most of all, I would have transmitted it in the preceding hours to many more people,” Macron said.
He urged people to “hold firm” and look after each other during the festive season, warning: “The virus is picking up, even stronger.”
Last week, Macron spent two days in intense negotiations at the EU summit in Brussels with the leaders of the other 26 member 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 Thursday, including with members of his centrist party and rival politicians, while 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 that they were not considered at risk.
Macron office isn’t providing 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 seeing 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 Thursday and its death toll is just under 60,000.
France’s Pasteur Institute released a study Friday suggesting that meal times at home and in public are a major source of contamination. Pasteur epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet said on France-Inter radio 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” on Thursday morning and will self-isolate for seven days, in line with national health authorities’ recommendations, the presidency said. Macron plans to continue working, and went ahead with a planned speech by videoconference Thursday.
The French health minister suggested that Macron might have been infected at the EU summit in Brussels last week, but Macron had multiple meetings in Paris as well.
France had Europe’s first virus case in January, but Macron’s government came under criticism 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 fall 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.