French PM Stirs Ire as Maskless Video of Him at Event Circulates After Positive COVID Test

French Prime Minister Jean Castex was the subject of public scrutiny Monday after he tested positive for COVID-19 and videos began to circulate on social media of him not following mask or distancing guidelines.

The Associated Press reported that there are multiple videos circulating of Castex not wearing a mask and shaking hands with elected officials at a Paris mayoral congress November 16.

Many critiquing the videos say his actions went directly against France's official COVID stance to continue to take preventive measures to curb the virus' spread. Experts said that Castex's behavior at the mayoral congress reflects a decrease in vigilance now that a large portion of France's population has received the vaccine.

In the AP report, French Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne warned against complacency, saying "maybe we have lapsed a bit, barrier measures are being less respected."

Castex's office said his 11-year-old daughter infected him with the virus and he is self-isolating for 10 days. Castex was vaccinated in the spring. According to CNN, Castex was not experiencing any symptoms and was feeling good at the time the test came back positive Monday night.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal defended Castex when the video first began circulating. "We're only human," he said.

Castex's office confirmed to CNN that Castex tested positive after returning from a meeting with ministers in Brussels. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and four other ministers are self-isolating following their meeting.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jean Castex, French Prime Minister
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, who tested positive for COVID Monday, is being singled out on social media and beyond as the prime example of what not to do in the pandemic. Above, Castex gives a statement after a Belgian-French security consultation meeting at Egmont Palace in Brussels on November 22. Olivier Matthys, File/AP Photo

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.

Castex's positive test is a potential embarrassment for the French government and for President Emmanuel Macron ahead of April's presidential election.

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. A contact case refers to a person who had contact with someone else who has the virus.

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.

Jean Castex, Vatican
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, left, was the subject of scrutiny after videos circulated on social media of him not wearing a mask and shaking hands at an event in Paris. Above, Castex is welcomed upon his arrival to the Vatican prior to a meeting with Pope Francis, on October 18 in Vatican City. Photo by Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images