European leaders were forced into isolation after French president Emmanuel Macron tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of a frantic week of meetings across the continent.
Prime ministers, presidents, ministers and EU leaders fell like dominoes shortly after the Élysée Palace announced the results of the test.
Mr Macron, 42, will have to isolate for a week, but vowed to continue his work remotely. He will be joined by his wife Bridgitte, who at 67 is considered to be in a high risk category.
The president had visited Brussels for an EU leaders summit last week and hosted working lunches in Paris – with limited social distancing – in the run up to the positive test.
Jean Castex, France’s Prime Minister, said he would also self-isolate after coming into regular contact with his boss.
Political party chiefs from the Senate and France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, said they would do the same because they had a lunch with Mr Macron on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Mr Macron was pictured embracing António Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal, during a meeting at the Élysée Palace. Mr Costa tested negative on Thursday but will isolate.
The day before, Mr Macron also dined with Charles Michel, the leader of the European Council who is now isolating, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, as well as the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez.
Mr Sánchez on Thursday said that he was suspending public activities as a precaution against Coronavirus, pointing out that his wife had contracted the virus in March. He said he would isolate despite also testing negative on Thursday.
Mrs Macron’s office said that she was not showing any symptoms. She had previously self-isolated in October after coming into contact with another carrier.
Mr Macron was at a European Council heads of state meeting in Brussels a week ago – on December 10 and 11.
He was pictured hovering around Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s Prime Minister, and the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
Mr Macron also shook hands with Angel Gurria, the head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development who is also now isolating.
Mr Macron’s schedule over the past week also included a private dinner with President Andel Fattah Sisi of Egypt.
Now all of Mr Macron’s trips have been cancelled, including one planned to Lebanon on December 22.
His positive Covid-19 test comes only two days after France relaxed measures to curb a second wave of the pandemic, replacing a nationwide lockdown with a curfew.
On Wednesday, the French health authorities reported the highest increase in cases since November 21.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recovered from the virus earlier this year after being placed in intensive care, sent get-well wishes to Mr Macron in tweets in English and French reading: “Sorry to hear my friend @EmmanuelMacron has tested positive for coronavirus. We are all wishing you a speedy recovery.”
American President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus in October, and was briefly treated in hospital
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, contracted Covid-19 in July, while the Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, was forced to step down in April and hand over to his deputy because of the virus.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, was also diagnosed with Covid-19 in March.
There is little likelihood Mr Macron’s illness could effect Brexit trade talks at this stage.
Mr Barnier has not seen Mr Macron for a long time, EU officials said, as they confirmed the EU’s chief negotiator would not need to take a test.
EU leaders will be called upon to approve a deal if one is negotiated, but that is expected to be done with a videoconference summit rather than one in person.
British officials said they were not aware of any risk to the talks but said they would follow the relevant health advice.