FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the creation of the…
French President Emmanuel Macron reacts as he meets Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Dec. 16, 2020, in Paris.

The French government says President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

"The president tested positive for COVID-19 today," a statement from the presidency said Thursday. It said Macron had been tested after the "onset of the first symptoms."

The government said Macron will self-isolate for seven days, in accordance with national regulations, and will continue to work and carry out his activities remotely.

European leaders self-isolate

Other European Union leaders are now scrambling either to get tested themselves or to work out whether they need to self-isolate. Macron had contact with many of them in past few days. On Wednesday the 42-year-old French leader met with the prime minister of Portugal, António Costa, in Paris.

Macron had lunch this week with Charles Michel, leader of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, who also had lunch with Macron, says he is suspending all his public activities as a precaution and will get tested and plans to self-isolate until December 24. 

Last week, Macron was at a European Council heads of state meeting and was pictured close to Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz. He also shook hands with Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This week he had a private dinner with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt. 

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban next to Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in Brussels, Dec. 10, 2020.

Jean Castex, France’s prime minister, said Thursday he will self-isolate. Most political party leaders in parliament have also had contact with Macron and are also planning to stop all public activities and to cancel all meetings. 

Cases soar in Britain

In Britain, meanwhile millions more people have been placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions in the run-up to Christmas as cases continue to soar in the south-east and south of England.

“This is a moment when we act with caution,” said Matt Hancock, the British health minister. He said cases in the southeast were up by 46 percent and hospital admissions up by third.

The country’s interior minister, Priti Patel, has said people should cancel any Christmas travel plans they are making, if it involves them moving between areas with high and low rates of infection. Her plea goes beyond official guidance set out midweek by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for people to enjoy small holiday celebrations. 

Johnson said a “smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.”

A man walks with shopping bags along Shaftesbury Avenue, in London, backdropped by theatres that have had to temporarily close as the British government have moved London into coronavirus Tier 3 restrictions, Dec. 17, 2020.

The current pandemic restrictions for the Christmas period ease up a little and allow for up to three households to socialize between December 23 and 27 except in Wales, where the law is being changed to restrict it to two. But the prime minister has been widely criticized for confusing people by saying he does not want to stop families from celebrating Christmas while urging them to “think hard” about seeing their loved ones.  

Johnson’s medical experts are calling for him to follow many other European countries, which are tightening restrictions for Christmas. They say the risks of any easing are too high. 

FILE - A worker in a protective suit is seen at a shuttered seafood market during the early spread of the coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China Jan. 10, 2020.
WHO: China Welcoming COVID-19 Investigators
Regional WHO official says agency has been in discussions with Chinese officials ahead of planned January visit

WHO team to China 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday it was sending a team of researchers to China in the first week of January to investigate the origins of the  novel coronavirus that led to the global pandemic that has so far killed more than 1.6 million people out of a total of 74.2 million total cases.   

The 10-member team will examine medical data and test samples to determine how the virus that causes COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans, and where it originated.  Most researchers believe the virus, which was first detected in late 2019 in the central city of Wuhan, originated in bats.  

U.S. President Donald  Trump has accused the Chinese government of covering up information about the pandemic.   

Special Section