Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič has tested positive for COVID-19, the government office said on Friday (18 December). The announcement comes after the French presidency said that Emmanuel Macron had been diagnosed with coronavirus, which he might have contracted at an EU summit both leaders attended the previous week.
Leaders who have had contact Macron have gone into isolation, including European Council chief Charles Michel, the prime ministers of Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg, and Macron’s own prime minister, Jean Castex. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo initially went into self-isolation but tested negative for the virus and will return to work on Friday.
In recent months EU leaders have avoided physical meetings, but the 10-11 December summit required their presence in Brussels because of its heavy agenda, including the pressure to unlock the next seven-year budget and the coronavirus stimulus plan.
Asked if an investigation was carried into whether other participants or staff at the summit had contracted COVID, Council spokesperson Barend Leyts said that all sanitary measures had been observed and that there was no information of staff member or participants, other than Macron and Matovič, having tested positive.
The news of Matovič’s positive test comes at a time when his government risks losing a coalition partner, and also against the background of the ongoing COVID crisis.
Slovakia had the ambition to counter the COVID-19 challenge by conducting massive testing of its entire population. A second such test failed, reportedly because Matovič’s deputy Richard Sulik, the leader of the liberal SaS party, failed to secure sufficient rapid test kits.
On Thursday, a furious Matovič called Sulik an “idiot” and apologised to the Slovaks for “having an idiot as economy minister.”
It is believed that there is no direct risk that the government would collapse, even if SaS were to withdraw.
[Edited by Zoran Radosvljevic]