March 9, 2020 / 7:40 PM / 21 days ago

Portugal's president in 'exemplary' self-isolation, tests negative for coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens to Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa before the Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France July 14, 2019. Kamil Zihnioglu/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

LISBON (Reuters) - Shouting down to reporters from his first-floor balcony, Portugal’s president declared on Monday that he would remain in voluntary quarantine for two weeks despite testing negative for coronavirus, as an “example” to Portuguese people.

“The test was negative. I’m going to keep working from home, even though it was negative, until the fifteen days are up,” broadcaster SIC showed Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as hollering. “I want to be an example.”

The head of state, who is known for rarely missing a social gathering where he eagerly poses with people for selfies, was tested earlier on Monday after his office announced the previous day that he had suspended all engagements and trips abroad for a fortnight and would work from home.

The decision was taken after a school in the northern municipality of Felgueiras which had sent a group of children to visit the presidential residence last Tuesday announced that one of its students had tested positive for the virus. The student in question was not present at the residence.

“I had commitments involving hundreds, thousands of people in the coming weeks. It’s not worth the risk,” Rebelo de Sousa told broadcaster RTP over the phone.

A total of 35 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Portugal so far, with the majority concentrated in two municipalities in the north - Felgueiras and Lousada.

Schools and public spaces in both municipalities were closed on Monday until further notice, the health ministry said.

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, editing by Andrei Khalip and Toby Chopra

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