(Bloomberg) — France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has contracted coronavirus, becoming the most senior official in the country known to be infected.
Le Maire tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, he said on Twitter. He immediately self-isolated at his home and will remain there for seven days, in accordance with the latest rules.
“I do not have any symptoms,” Le Maire said. “I will continue to carry out my duties.”
French health authorities reported more than 13,000 new cases on Friday, the most since the end of the country’s lockdown in May. Le Maire’s infection highlights the struggle to contain the virus in France — and Europe — as President Emmanuel Macron faces widespread job losses in a slowing recovery.
Le Maire’s case follows that of Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei this week, and earlier in the pandemic those of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, both of whom have recovered.
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Le Maire has a key role in crafting the French government’s crisis response, having presided over three emergency budgets. He is now leading the charge to deliver a 100 billion-euro ($118 billion) stimulus plan that Macron says must transform the economy in the next two years. Le Maire also played a central role in negotiations over the European response to the pandemic and the creation of a continent-wide recovery fund.
The finance minister’s in-tray in France includes a number of big corporate dossiers, as well as a stream of politically sensitive factory closings and layoffs. In the hostile takeover battle between Veolia Environnement SA and rival Suez SA, the state has a key role in deciding the outcome via its holding in Engie SA.
Beyond Europe, Le Maire is a central figure in a disagreement with the U.S. over digital taxation. His refusal to back down on a levy that hits several large U.S. companies like Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google has sparked sanctions from the U.S. that could hit French goods early next year.
During the lockdown in France, Le Maire, while saying health was the priority, was also an advocate of getting the economy going again as fast as possible. In June, he posed for cameras drinking coffee at a pavement cafe on the first day of bars and restaurants reopening.
The minister’s positive test will be a concern for other senior figures in government. On Wednesday he attended a cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace with Macron and other ministers, and met with the management of Suez later in the day.
On Thursday morning, he hosted a meeting of France’s financial stability council, which includes the chiefs of market and banking regulators and the governor of the Bank of France, Francois Villeroy de Galhau.
On Monday, Le Maire was due to travel to Brussels for a meeting with EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager to discuss French power market regulation. He will participate in the meeting by phone, an official said.
(Updates with details.)
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