The prime minister of France, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, is being singled out on social media and beyond as an example of what not to do in the pandemic.
Multiple videos are being circulated of a maskless Prime Minister Jean Castex vigorously shaking hands with elected officials in an enclosed space at a Paris mayoral congress on Nov. 16. Many people are pointing out that goes against France’s official stance that everyone should keep taking preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19.
They also noted that Castex had called the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe “irresponsible” in the enforcement of COVID-19 measures when he did not abide by the rules himself.
Gabriel Attal, the French government’s spokesman, had leaped to Castex’s defense when the video first began circulating. “We are all only human,” he said.
But Castex’s positive test is a potential embarrassment for the French government and for President Emmanuel Macron ahead of April’s presidential election.
Castex’s office says the 52-year-old was infected by his 11-year-old daughter and is self-isolating for 10 days.
It’s unclear if Castex, who was vaccinated in the spring, has symptoms. His office was not immediately available to comment Tuesday.
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Experts are saying that Castex’s behavior is indicative of a wider drop in vigilance now that most of France’s population has received vaccine shots. A prominent government figure, Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne, warned against complacency this month, acknowledging that “maybe we have lapsed a bit, barrier measures are being less respected.”
Mask sales have fallen in France by three quarters in the year up to August 2021.
But for the moment French media are concentrating their ire on Castex, pointing out this is the fourth time that Castex has been a “contact case” for the virus, though he has never previously tested positive.
As a result of his positive test, several other French ministers are self-isolating awaiting test results, including Europe Minister Clement Beaune, who deleting a photo on Instagram of him laughing and leaning in to Castex without wearing a mask.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.