March 17, 2020 / 8:33 PM / 18 days ago

Workers in Chilean malls call on government to shutter shops

SANTIAGO, March 17 (Reuters) - Shopping mall workers in the Chilean capital Santiago launched protests on Tuesday demanding the closure of stores as coronavirus cases surged in the South American country.

The government has ordered the suspension of schools and universities, closed its borders and restricted public meetings to no more than 50 people, as cases have risen to 201. On Tuesday, the government also closed Santiago’s parks.

But workers in several high-end malls, mainly in the wealthy east of Santiago, have called on the authorities to shut down the boutiques.

Workers shouted, “Close the mall,” “Let us go home” and “Quarantine!” in video posted on social media including from the sprawling Costanera Centre in Providencia, topped by the continent’s tallest skyscraper, which is owned by retailer Cencosud.

Nearby Parque Arauco said in a tweet that it had left the decision to close to individual stores.

Killary Lillo, a 22-year-old mall worker, told Reuters she wanted to go home.

“We feel very exposed because even though there are fewer people circulating, this mall is a general thoroughfare and many foreigners come through,” she said.

Evelyn Matthei, the mayor of Providencia, said the council had approved a bylaw to close all stores in the Costanera Centre except for pharmacies and supermarkets from Wednesday.

In La Florida suburb, home to another massive shopping mall, the mayor issued instructions for it to close at 4 p.m.

But Lucas Palacios, the economy minister, said the decision to shutter commerce was something only President Sebastian Pinera could decide, not mayors. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Natalia Ramos; writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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