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POLITICS

Macron posts video saying he is ‘doing well’ despite Covid diagnosis

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that he was doing well after testing positive for Covid-19 but acknowledged that he had to slow down his activities due to ongoing symptoms.

Macron posts video saying he is 'doing well' despite Covid diagnosis
French president Emmanuel Macron was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Thursday. Photo: AFP

“I am doing well. I have the same symptoms as yesterday: tiredness, headaches, dry cough. Like hundreds of thousands of others of you,” Macron said in a video message posted on his Twitter account that he appeared to have recorded himself with a phone.

 

“My activity is a little slowed down due to the virus. But I am continuing to take care of the priority issues like the epidemic or, for example, Brexit,” he said.

“I have a message for all of you. Continue to take care of yourselves. The virus can hit anyone. I was well protected and very careful,” he said in his message.

“Despite everything, I got the virus. Perhaps it was a moment of carelessness but also maybe bad luck,” he said.

He added that he was posting the video to ensure total transparency over his health. 

France has historically been rather secretive over the health of its presidents, with both François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac experiencing major health problems while in office which went unreported.

Macron moved to the presidential residence La Lanterne in Versailles on Thursday evening. His wife Brigitte, who has tested negative, will remain in self-isolation at the Elysée.

It is not clear where Macron contracted the virus although presidential sources have said he may have picked it up while attending an EU summit in Brussels late last week where leaders had 20 hours of non-stop negotiation. 

Adding to concern over possible infections at the summit, Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic said Friday he had tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the EU Council.

“Today, I am one of you,” Matovic, 47, wrote on his Facebook page, attaching a screenshot of a text message with his test results.

The president has been the subject of some criticism in France after his schedule revealed that he had been having regular lunches and dinners with fellow politicians, including a dinner at the Elysée which exceeded the recommended maximum number of six people. Officials say that the table was large enough to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Dozens of people who have come into contact with Macron in recent days are now self-isolating, including five prime ministers and an EU leader.

READ ALSO Who is self-isolating after contact with Macron?

 

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CRIME

French ex-minister convicted in fake jobs scam

A French court on Thursday found former justice minister Michel Mercier guilty of embezzlement in a fake jobs scheme he ran for the benefit of family members.

French ex-minister convicted in fake jobs scam

Mercier, 75, who served under former president Nicolas Sarkozy between 2010 and 2012, claimed tens of thousands of euros for his wife and daughter for parliamentary jobs  they never carried out.

The court handed him a suspended prison sentence of three years.

Mercier gave “personal gain precedence over the public good”, the court said in its verdict, calling Mercier’s actions “serious”.

As senator, Mercier claimed 50,000 euros ($54,000 at today’s rate) in salary for his wife Joelle between 2005 and 2009, and  €37,000 for his daughter Delphine between 2012 and 2014.

During that time, Delphine Mercier was living in London and did not set foot in the French Senate, but her father claimed she was acting as his “cultural advisor”.

Neither Mercier nor his daughter were able to provide any proof of actual work done.

Joelle Mercier, meanwhile, claimed during the trial that she had served as her husband’s representative at village fairs and funerals.

She was found guilty of conspiracy to embezzle public funds and of receiving stolen money and sentenced to a suspended prison term of 18 months and a €40,000 fine.

The court handed the daughter a 12-month suspended sentence and a fine of €10,000.

Prosecutors had asked for the ex-minister to serve one year behind bars, accusing him of “creating smoke screens” in his defence and seeking to mislead the court.

Mercier had based part of his defence on his rural roots, pitting his “common sense” against the “Parisians” of the national financial crimes unit PNF.

Several French politicians have been convicted for similar offences committed before France in 2017 banned National Assembly deputies and senators from employing family members.

The move came in reaction to a public outcry over a high-profile case involving former right-wing prime minister Francois Fillon, who was found guilty of providing a fake parliamentary assistant job to his wife that saw her paid hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds.

The “Penelopegate” scandal, revealed in a media report while he was the front-runner in the 2017 presidential race, torpedoed  his political career and cleared a path for then-relatively unknown Emmanuel Macron.

Last year, a court trimmed Fillon’s sentence to four years in prison with three suspended — down from five years with three suspended when he was first found guilty in 2020.

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