Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrado – who has long been accused of complacency in his approach to the pandemic – has tested positive for Covid-19 and is undergoing treatment with mild symptoms, according to his Twitter account.
As the United States prepared to reinforce travel restrictions from a host of other countries on Sunday night, López Obrador tweeted: “I regret to inform you that I am infected with Covid-19. The symptoms are mild but I am already under medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will all move forward.”
The 67-year-old has rarely been seen wearing a mask and has continued to keep up a busy travel schedule including travelling on commercial flights.
He has resisted locking down the economy, noting the devastating effect it would have on many Mexicans who live day to day.
Early in the pandemic, asked how he was protecting Mexico, López Obrador removed two religious amulets from his wallet and proudly displayed them. “The protective shield is the ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,”’ he said, reading off the inscription on the amulet, “Stop, enemy, for the Heart of Jesus is with me.”
In November, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said that “Mexico is in bad shape” with the pandemic and urged its leaders be serious about the coronavirus and set examples for its citizens.
Mexico has registered nearly 150,000 coronavirus deaths and more than 1.7 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. Hospitals in the capital have been near capacity for weeks as a surge of cases followed the holiday season.
Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not name López Obrador, but said: “We would like to ask Mexico to be very serious.”
“We have said it in general, wearing a mask is important, hygiene is important and physical distancing is important and we expect leaders to be examples,” he added.
At the start of the pandemic López Obrador was criticised for still leaning into crowds and giving hugs. The eternal campaigner, López Obrador’s style of politics has always been very hands on and personal. As the pandemic grew he began limiting attendance to his events and maintaining his distance from supporters.
As of Sunday night, Mexico had administered nearly 630,000 doses of vaccine.
López Obrador’s announcement came shortly after news emerged that he would speak to Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday about obtaining doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. The vaccine has not been approved for use in Mexico, but the government is desperate to fill supply gaps for the Pfizer vaccine.
In the United States, which on the weekend passed 25m coronavirus cases and is nearing 420,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, President Joe Biden will reinstate coronavirus travel restrictions on non-US travellers from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders, according to two White House officials.
The officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss the order, also confirmed on Sunday that South Africa would be added to the restricted list because of concerns about a variant of the virus that has spread beyond that nation.
The South Africa variant has not been discovered in the United States, but another variant originating in the United Kingdom has been detected in several states.
New Zealand officials said on Monday that its first community case for two months was the South African variant.
In north-east China, Tonghua, a city of close to 400,000 people, was placed under sudden lockdown a week ago, prompting complaints on social media that people were left short of provisions and could not buy medicines. Some of them had only two or three days of food rations.
The city’s deputy mayor, Jiang Haiyan apologised on Sunday for slow deliveries of daily necessities to residents at a daily briefing. In addition, the local epidemic control department issued an announcement promising residents that five days of basic living materials will be supplied to each household at half price from now on.
Tonghua has reported 246 coronavirus cases including 50 asymptomatic ones.