The European Union has postponed its summit for a week because EU Council President Charles Michel has gone into quarantine after a close collaborator was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Spokesman Barend Leyts said Mr Michel “today learned that a security officer, with whom he was in close contact early last week, tested positive for Covid”.
Mr Leyts said the European Council chief is “respecting Belgian rules” and “has gone into quarantine as of today”.
The summit, originally set for Thursday and Friday, aims to address issues as wide-ranging as Brexit negotiations, climate change and tensions between Greece and Turkey over energy rights.
Preparations for the meeting were in full swing when Mr Michel made the sudden announcement. He postponed the summit by a week, to October 1-2.
The @eucopresident today learned that a security officer, with whom he was in close contact early last week, tested positive for COVID.— Barend Leyts (@BarendLeyts) September 22, 2020
The President is tested regularly and tested negative yesterday. ⁰
Respecting Belgian rules, he has gone into quarantine as of today.
Live summits with the leaders of EU nations coming to Brussels only resumed over the summer. Throughout the spring, they met through video conferences while staying in their own capitals.
As the chief of the European Council, Mr Michel is the host to the regular summits of EU leaders. In July, he forced the 27 leaders to stay for four days in Brussels to broker an 1.85 trillion-euro agreement on a pandemic recovery fund and long-term EU budget.
The postponement is a setback to the EU leaders’ hope for a return to normality.
Mr Michel, who tested negative for the virus on Monday, did not want to risk bringing the leaders together in one room, however big, for fear of further exposure.
The decision to delay took place against a backdrop of irritation when government officials do not take the same care with precautionary measures as the general public.
Last month, the chief EU trade negotiator and commissioner Phil Hogan had to resign when he admitted flouting some measures during a summer stay in his native Ireland.
Almost 150,000 people in the European Union have died in the pandemic, which also has thrown the bloc into the worst economic crisis of its history.