President suspends engagements for two weeks on coronavirus fears

  • Lusa
  • 9 March 2020

President of the Republic does not present any "viral symptom", but has decided to enter home "quarantine" for preventive reasons.

Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, has suspended his official engagements for two weeks and is to be monitored at home, “despite not presenting any symptom” of infection by the new coronavirus, his office has announced.

The decision was taken on Sunday after the president on Tuesday hosted a visit at the presidential palace in Belém, Lisbon, by a class from a school in Felgueiras, in Porto district, that on Saturday was closed following the admission to hospital of one of its pupils, says a statement on the president’s official website.

“Given what is known today and was not known last Tuesday, having heard the health authorities, the President of the Republic, despite not presenting any viral symptoms, decided to cancel all his public activity, which included several presences with large numbers of Portuguese, as well as his visit to Belém itself, for the next two weeks,” the statement reads. “The same will be done with planned trips abroad.”

During the two-week period, de Sousa “will be monitored at home”.

The note stresses that neither the pupil taken to hospital nor his class took part in the visit to the palace in Belém.

Another class from the school visited the palace as part of an initiative involving prominent artists, “in a session that the President of the Republic attended, with his having photographs taken with the pupils and teachers without, however, his having greeted them one by one,” the statement explains.

In normal times de Sousa greets many people that he meets on official engagements with a kiss on each cheek.

The office of the president added “all those who attended the Tuesday session” are now being contacted and that the event in question – which was to take place regularly throughout the school year – has been suspended.

“At a time when all Portuguese are showing a high degree of civic maturity in the face of the viral outbreak, the President of the Republic believes that he should set an enhanced example of prevention, while continuing to work in his private residence,” the statement reads.

On Sunday afternoon the president had been scheduled to attend a religious procession in Lisbon, but he did not do so.

His official agenda for Monday had included a visit to the Special Police Unit (UEP) of the PSP police force in Amadora, in Lisbon district.

On Saturday, the president had already said that he had decided to reduce “part of his agenda” in Portugal because of the Covid-19 outbreak and to avoid gatherings of people indoors but said that he expected to go ahead with foreign trips planned.

The latest statement suggests that he may not now do so.

As for Sunday night there were 25 cases of coronavirus infection confirmed, mostly in the north of the country. The government announced the temporary suspension of visits to hospitals, homes and prisons in that region; some secondary schools and university faculties have also been temporarily closed.

The health minister, Marta Temido, said that the risk of the epidemic in Portugal could be reassessed in the coming hours, and prompt the adoption of fresh exceptional measures.