STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has tested positive for the coronavirus. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Paris.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: How is he?
BEARDSLEY: Well, he's said to be fine so far, but he has some symptoms. And the Elysee Palace says that's why he got a test this morning. He's going to be isolating for a week, and he's continuing his schedule of meetings today, but by video conference. And obviously, he's canceled his lunch for today. Now, his wife, French first lady Brigitte Macron, is also in isolation. She's a bit older than he is. She's 67. Macron is 42.
You know, all the TV news channels are abuzz about who he got it from, who he may have passed it to. You know, already the French prime minister is going into isolation. He's a contact case. But Macron also recently met with the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, and head of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the European commission head, Ursula von der Leyen. So they may be going into isolation as well.
INSKEEP: OK. How seriously had the French president been taking the virus?
BEARDSLEY: Steve, very seriously. He's had a different approach than some of the other world leaders who have gotten it, like Boris Johnson, British prime minister, our president, Donald Trump, and the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, to name a few. They were very cavalier. They even pooh-poohed it. They never wore masks. Macron is always seen wearing a mask. You know, he's stressed that every decision he's made has been with huddling with this country's top scientists. Steve, not really huddling - not literally...
INSKEEP: Not literally huddling, that would not be...
INSKEEP: ...Good. But anyway, he talks with them. Go on. Go on.
BEARDSLEY: Exactly. And, you know, France has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. And in Europe, right after Italy and Britain with deaths - it's been bad. The country's just come out of a second national lockdown that reduced the daily rate from 60,000 to 14,000 cases a day. But people are still being urged to take precaution. There's an 8 p.m. overnight curfew now in effect. People are being told, wear your mask at the Christmas dinner table.
You know, you go outside, you don't see anybody who's not wearing a mask, even outside in the streets. And I think, you know, the Elysee Palace is emphasizing the fact that Macron, someone extremely careful, who's closely watched, he still got it. That means the virus is still out there. It's circulating. Everyone is vulnerable.
INSKEEP: Circulating, although 14,000 cases a day - that's a much lower rate than the United States, even when you adjust for population and so forth.
INSKEEP: So France is not in the worst position in the world. But still, here they are with the president testing positive. Are the French authorities in a position to distribute a vaccine soon as we're seeing in the United States and Britain and elsewhere?
BEARDSLEY: Well, watching that going on in the U.S. and Britain, everybody wants to hear. The government has outlined its strategy - elderly homes first, health care workers, too. By the end of the spring, it says, you know, all nonvulnerable public will be vaccinated. You know, the European Medicines Agency - that's the EU's equivalent to the FDA - has not approved the the vaccine - the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It's going to be done soon. France already has more than a million doses on order for the end of December. The EU and Macron, they want to - for the EU to start vaccinating, you know, simultaneously, altogether - very important, symbolic. Germany has mentioned the date of December 27. So it may be taking place around then.
INSKEEP: But in the French case, they're just saying, we have our own process. We want to be careful here. We need a few more days and weeks. Is that right?
BEARDSLEY: Well, it's the European Medicines Agency that has to approve this vaccine. And everyone is waiting on that right now. And people are, you know, starting to chomp at the bit. It needs to happen soon. But, you know, everyone is told to be very careful until the vaccine comes. But it's being promised this month they're going to begin vaccinating.
INSKEEP: Eleanor, thanks.
BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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