Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been a source of disinformation about the virus. Despite Mexico having one of the highest recorded Covid-19 death tolls in the world, the president refuses to wear a mask and has continued holding public events around the country, where he even hugs and kisses some supporters.
On January 23, during one such trip, López Obrador reportedly began to experience flu-like symptoms and took a Covid-19 test, according to media reports. He continued his planned schedule, meeting with government and military officials, holding an indoor dinner with business leaders, and attending four public events in two states—all without wearing a mask or following social distancing guidelines—as if life had returned to normal. He also took three commercial flights, potentially exposing hundreds of people to the virus. The following day, upon returning to Mexico City, the president said in a tweet that his test had come back positive, and he was receiving medical treatment for “light symptoms.”
Following the announcement, other government officials took Covid-19 tests and decided to isolate themselves. The president, meanwhile, is being treated by a team of specialists at the National Palace. These are services to which few in Mexico have access—in part because of the president’s own inadequate response to the pandemic. The government has intentionally limited free Covid-19 testing, calling it a “waste of time... [and] resources,” making it extremely difficult for many to get tested. And in the worst-hit regions of the country it can be nearly impossible to find available hospital beds or even to fill oxygen tanks for those attempting to treat their loved ones at home. As a result, experts estimate that many of those who fall ill or die from Covid-19 in Mexico never receive intensive care, are admitted to a hospital, or even take a Covid-19 test.
President López Obrador’s approach to the virus has put Mexicans in danger. He has contradicted public health advice, telling Mexicans to ignore stay-at-home orders and insisting that masks are “not essential.” And his government was caught hiding the true number of Covid-19 deaths and fudging figures to avoid lockdown rules.
In November, the head of the World Health Organization said that Mexico was “in bad shape” because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, and called on President López Obrador “to be very serious.” Now that he is experiencing the illness firsthand, he should finally do so and stop playing with the lives and health of Mexicans.