The coronavirus outbreak in Spain has reached the heart of the government. On Thursday, the executive announced that the equality minister, Irene Montero of left-wing Unidas Podemos, had tested positive for the Covid-19 disease. “The minister is in a good condition, and the deputy prime minister, Pablo Iglesias, is in quarantine for this situation too,” the statement read, in reference to Montero’s partner, who is the leader of Unidas Podemos. The executive announced on Thursday that tests would be carried out on all members of the government for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. So far, only Carolina Darias, the minister for territorial policy, has also tested positive.
The coalition government has been widely criticized for not having canceled the Women’s Day marches
The government is planning on reducing to a minimum the contact its members have with other people, given the chance that more ministers have picked up the virus. Both Montero and Iglesias have had contact with the other members of the Cabinet at meetings over the last week.
On Thursday, the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), gave a press conference without the physical presence of journalists, although they were able to put questions to the politician. Another meeting he held later with union chiefs was also done via video link.
La Moncloa, the prime ministerial palace, is minimizing the number of meetings being held and its staff are also telecommuting. A Cabinet meeting was held, however, although the ministers kept a certain distance from one another and Montero and Iglesias were not present.
Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia have undergone tests for the coronavirus, according to the Royal Household, “given their recent public activities,” a spokesperson said. The queen was with Irene Montero on Friday during a working meeting with an association dedicated to assisting sex workers. On Friday morning, it was announced that the royals had tested negative, but that “following recommendations from health authorities,” Queen Letizia would remain in quarantine with no official duties, and her temperature would be monitored.
Montero was tested for the virus after starting to cough, although she has stated via Twitter that she is in a good condition. Sources from her party, Podemos, reported that she did not have a fever. Both Montero and Iglesias are currently in their home in the Madrid satellite town of Galapagar.
Both the Podemos politicians took part on Sunday in the 8-M Women’s Day marches, which went ahead across Spain despite the coronavirus epidemic already having spread throughout many parts of the country. The coalition government run by the PSOE with the support of Unidas Podemos has been widely criticized this week by opposition parties for not having canceled the marches.
Ana Pastor, a politician from the conservative Popular Party (PP) who is currently a member of the speaker’s committee in Spain’s lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, has also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, four deputies from the far-right Vox party – leader Santiago Abascal, secretary general Javier Ortega Smith and deputies in Congress Carlos Zambrano and Macarena Olana – have all tested positive for the virus. Abascal confirmed via Twitter that he had contracted the coronavirus, explaining that he had gone to a private clinic for the diagnostic after his colleague Ortega Smith was confirmed to have it too.
Earlier in the week Vox apologized for having held a party rally on Sunday that attracted around 9,000 people to the Vistalegre arena in Madrid. In a statement, however, they roundly attacked the government for having let the 8-M Women’s Day marches go ahead, and accused the coalition government of not having done enough to contain the effects of what has now been classed as a global pandemic.
The Congress of Deputies decided on Thursday to suspend all parliamentary activity for a week, in a bid to minimize the impact of the virus.
English version by Simon Hunter.