Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris in her office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. President Lopez Obrador announced on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, that he has come down with COVID-19 a second time, as coronavirus infections spike in Mexico and virus tests become scarce. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s president announced Monday he has come down with COVID-19 a second time, as coronavirus infections spike in Mexico and virus tests become scarce.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wrote that he tested positive, after he had sounded hoarse at a morning news briefing. He contracted COVID-19 and recovered from it the first time in early 2021.
“Even though the symptoms are light, I will remain isolated and only work from the office and hold on-line meetings until further notice,” the president wrote in his social media accounts. “In the meantime, Interior Secretary Adán Augusto López Hernández will take over for me at press conferences and other events.”
Two of the president’s Cabinet secretaries, the heads of the Environment and Economy departments, announced they had tested positive in recent days.
Earlier in the day, the president told Mexicans to just assume they had COVID-19 if they had symptoms. The number of confirmed cases spiked by 186% last week.
López Obrador claimed the Omicron variant is “a little COVID,” noting hospitalizations and deaths had not increased at the same rate. However, experts say those are both lagging indicators that may not show up for weeks after infections spike.
Reading advice posted on Twitter, the president said Mexicans with symptoms should just stay at home, take paracetamol and isolate, rather than going out and trying to find tests.
Since Christmas, private pharmacies and the few available testing centers have been overwhelmed by long lines. The Twitter advice drew on guidelines from Mexico City and other health authorities.
López Obrador’s administration has long refused to implement mass testing, calling it a waste of money. He called on companies not to require COVID tests for employees.
Mexico passed 300,000 test-confirmed coronavirus deaths last week, but so little testing is done in the country of 126 million that a government review of death certificates puts the real toll at almost 460,000.
The virus spike was largely responsible for the cancelation of 260 flights between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10, the president said, as airline employees got infected and had to isolate, causing staff shortages.
José Merino, the head of Mexico City’s Digital Innovation Agency, said the capital had the same number of Covid cases as the peak of January 2020, but only 6% as many people hospitalized. he wrote in his Twitter account that 70% of those hospitalized were not vaccinated.