Half of Chile senate, two ministers in coronavirus quarantine

Santiago (AFP) –


Around half of Chile's 50-member senate, as well as two ministers, have been placed in quarantine after coming into contact with colleagues infected with the novel coronavirus, official sources said on Monday.

Finance Minister Ignacio Briones and Chief of Staff Felipe Ward both wrote on Twitter that they had tested negative for the virus but were in quarantine until a second test is conducted.

Briones said he was tested Friday, due to his "regular contact with" infected senator Jorge Pizarro on the Senate finance committee, and has since begun "preventative quarantine."

At the end of last week, around 20 legislators began isolation after meeting with Pizarro and another infected senator, Rabindranath Quinteros.

A third senator, Manuel Jose Ossandon, confirmed Monday he also had tested positive.

Deputy Senate leader Quinteros has sparked a furor over his conduct, having traveled to the south of Chile on Friday just before testing positive for the virus.

Although he was asymptomatic, he was suspected of having the virus, parliamentary sources said.

Another legislator, Ximena Rincon, said from her home on Monday that she felt "fear, anger and impotence" as local media showed clips of Quinteros greeting her in the Senate last Wednesday with a kiss.

In the same footage, Quinteros is also seen coughing and touching at least one microphone.

Last Wednesday, Chile recorded a 60 percent spike in daily coronavirus cases despite a month and a half of preventative measures, including a selective lockdown.

Last week, the government imposed a total lockdown on the capital Santiago, which has recorded more than 80 percent of the country's 46,000 cases. There had also been 478 deaths as of Monday.