By James Blears – Mexico City
On his Twitter account, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announces: “Unfortunate to inform that I’m infected with Covid-19. The symptoms are light, but I’m being medically treated. As always, I`m optimistic.”
The situation must be carefully monitored and handled, as it’s nowhere near as straightforward as it might seem. President Lopez Obrador is 67-years-old. He has a history of high blood pressure, and suffered a heart attack in 2013, needing surgery for the implantation of a stent.
During the pandemic he has seldom worn a mask. When opposition politicians threatened to seek an injunction obliging him to do so, he responded by suggesting that he would only wear a mask once corruption is eradicated from Mexico. President Lopez Obrador does wear a mask when travelling to parts of the country on commercial flights.
One immediate effect will be the cancelation of his daily press conferences, in front of distanced media. Other Cabinet ministers, who are regularly on the podium with him on these mornings, are undergoing tests.
Lopez Obrador is starting the third year of his six-year, non-renewable presidential term. Presidents Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, and former President Trump contracted Covid-19, but with prompt treatment recovered.
The news comes as Mexico’s infection rate is soaring. Last Thursday registered the record so far, with 22,339 people affected, but that’s expected to be surpassed sooner rather than later.
The government is prioritizing health workers and then teachers for vaccinations, but all of this can only be counted in the thousands, yet Mexico, which is not a producer of doses, has a population exceeding 125 million people.
It’s estimated that 40 percent of the estimated 1.7 million people infected so far are between the ages of 20 and 39.
Experts say many young people continue to go to work daily out of economic necessity in an increasingly fragile economy, which was not in good shape to start with. Many have continued to socialize and also celebrated Christmas with more elderly members of their families, and are often carriers of the coronavirus.
The poor example set by leaders also hasn’t helped. Hugo Lopez Gatell, the Deputy Health Minister and pandemic spokesman, was filmed last month on holiday in Acapulco, eating a meal at a table full of people, minus a mask.