President Emmanuel Macron of France has tested positive for the coronavirus, the French presidency said on Thursday, just as his government was trying to lift lockdown restrictions before Christmas and avoid another wave of infections.
“This diagnosis was established after a RT-PCR test that was carried out as soon as the first symptoms appeared,” a statement from the presidency said. It did not reveal what those symptoms were and when they first appeared.
Mr. Macron will work in isolation for the next seven days, the statement added. The office of Jean Castex, the country’s prime minister, said that he would also work from isolation because of his recent proximity with Mr. Macron.
Mr. Macron, 42, is not known to suffer from any medical problems. But the health of French presidents is traditionally a closely guarded secret, and France’s 24-hour news channels immediately began speculating on Thursday morning about how sick he might be.
Mr. Macron’s positive test has also affected other leaders across the continent, since he met with several foreign and domestic officials in the past week, including at the European Council in Brussels on Thursday and Friday and in meetings with Prime Ministers Pedro Sánchez of Spain and António Costa of Portugal this week.
Mr. Sánchez’s office said on Thursday that he would self-isolate until Dec. 24, 10 days after his last meeting with Mr. Macron, and would also be tested for the virus. Mr. Costa has also canceled meetings and a trip to Africa, and will also be tested. Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, will go into isolation, having met with Mr. Macron in Paris on Monday.
And Prime Minister Alexander de Croo of Belgium posted on Twitter that he would be tested and self-isolate after coming into contact with Mr. Macron last week.
While in Brussels, the French leader also held discussions in close quarters with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. A government spokeswoman said on Thursday that Ms. Merkel had tested negative for the coronavirus.
A European Union official said that the French authorities had considered Mr. Macron contagious as of Monday, but that protection measures were observed during the European Council meeting. There have as yet been no reports of other leaders or staff members testing positive.
Mr. Macron held a weekly meeting with his cabinet members on Wednesday, but the French presidency said that the officials were distanced and wore masks. Several of his ministers tested positive for the virus in the spring. And his wife, Brigitte Macron, isolated herself for several days a few months ago after being in close contact with an infected person.
Until now, Mr. Macron had managed to steer France through the pandemic without being forced into self-isolation because of…