Spanish minister infected with coronavirus; cabinet, royals tested

Equality Minister Irene Montero tested positive after a Madrid Women's Day march

irene-montero-reuters Irene Montero and her husband Pablo Iglesias | Reuters

Spain's cabinet and the royal family underwent coronavirus testing Thursday after a minister tested positive and was quarantined with her partner, the second deputy prime minister. Equality Minister Irene Montero's positive test coincided with infections nationwide jumping to 2,968 cases by 1200 GMT, from 2,140 on Wednesday evening, and deaths leaping to 84 from 48 within the same timeframe.

Writing on Twitter, Montero, 32, said she had tested positive late Wednesday, three days after appearing at a mass march of some 120,000 people through Madrid for International Women's Day. She and her partner Pablo Iglesias went into quarantine, an official statement said. Government ministers all underwent testing on Thursday, it added.

Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia were also tested for the virus after taking part in an event with the minister several days ago, the palace told AFP. A special cabinet meeting to discuss an emergency plan to respond to the crisis went ahead and was attended by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and 14 other ministers. Later on Thursday, Sanchez gave a televised press conference without any journalists present, answering questions posed via WhatsApp.

Spain has seen the number of infections spiral since the start of the week, becoming one of the worst-hit countries in Europe. Madrid has borne the brunt of the crisis, clocking up 1,388 infections and 38 deaths by Thursday morning. "To beat the virus as quickly as possible, responsibility and social discipline is essential. This requires big changes in our habits," said Sanchez who will conduct all future meetings by video conference.

Sanchez said the government had agreed on a raft of economic measures including a tax moratorium for affected companies as well as funding for the worst-hit sectors, such as tourism—which accounts for 12 percent of Spain's GDP. In total, some 4.2 billion euros ($4.7 billion) would be unblocked, including nearly 3.0 billion for the regional health authorities, he said, with the tax deferrals and delayed payments amounting to some 14 billion euros.

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