Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he has Covid-19 amid record increases in the nation’s cases and fatalities from the outbreak in the past week.
The president, 67, announced his diagnosis in a tweet late on Sunday, saying his symptoms are mild and that he’s receiving treatment. He is expected to stay on top of the country’s affairs, and will take a scheduled call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Monday.
“As always, I am optimistic,” he said. “We will all move forward.”
Mr Lopez Obrador, known as Amlo, has generally held a lax approach to the virus, refusing to impose mandatory lockdowns and pressing hard to keep the economy open for business. With the increase in deaths in the past week, the nation now has the fourth-highest number of fatalities globally, after the US, Brazil and India.
Mexico doesn’t have a vice president. The interior minister would assume power for up to 60 days if a president dies, until politicians appoint an interim leader. Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero will serve as Mr Obrador’s deputy at his daily press conferences while he recovers, the president tweeted.
Amlo had a heart attack in 2013, which he has said was caused by arterial hypertension. He exhibited mild Covid-19 symptoms on Sunday and is now in the care of Health Minister Jorge Alcocer, said Jose Luis Alomia, a ministry official.
The president held a telephone conversation Friday with US President Joe Biden in Monterrey, and also attended events in the state of San Luis Potosi at the weekend. Mr Obrador, who has largely refused to wear masks during the pandemic, was pictured during the call at a table next to his Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and former chief of staff Alfonso Romo, both also without masks.
In the past week, Mexico reported two days of record increases in deaths due to Covid-19, registering a high on Thursday of 1,803 fatalities. The country reported 1.76 million cases and 149,614 deaths as of Sunday evening.
Christmas celebrations are believed to have contributed to the recent surge, and the nation’s vaccination campaign has suffered delays. Meanwhile, the president has pledged government austerity, declining to implement any large-scale stimulus to counter Covid-19’s economic impact.
The nationalist leader has kept up a heavy travel schedule during the pandemic and flies economy class. Mr Obrador is known to remain standing for up to three hours daily, as he answers questions at his morning press briefings.
Mr Obrador had declined to be vaccinated against Covid-19 until late February, when others in his age group are scheduled to have the shots.