Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stressed that wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 ‘is not essential.’
The 67-year-old leader said he has followed the advice of Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell and his primary doctor while his country struggles to contain a pandemic that generated the world’s second worst fatality rate.
The country is 10th in the globe also has an average of 85.24 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents.
‘Dr. Hugo Lopez-Gatell, who is the one who guides me and Dr. Alcocer, tell me that it is not essential (to wear a mask), that there are other measures. And I think that the best thing is [keeping a] healthy distance and taking care of ourselves,’ López Obrador said Wednesday during a press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City.
‘The fundamental thing is that by guaranteeing freedom, awareness is made that we must take care of ourselves, that we are already of old age,’ said Obrador, who said he has been recommended by Lopez-Gatell to socially distance and wash his hands regularly.
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, photographed at a November 5 news conference, said on Wednesday that the use of face masks is not necessary to stop the ravaging coronavirus pandemic which has killed 107,565 people, fourth-most in the world
People wearing face masks walk in downtown streets at the start of the Christmas season in Mexico City on Monday
A health workers conducts a COVID-19 rapid test in Mexico City, Mexico, on November 20
‘There has been a lot of information about what to do, what not to do,’ he added. ‘So we then follow those recommendations, that’s what I do, I go on visits, for example, and there are no rallies.’
The ravaging coronavirus epidemic has registered 1,133,613 confirmed cases in Mexico, the eleventh-most cases in the globe and fourth highest in Latin America, as of Thursday.
Brazil, the epicenter of the pandemic in the region, has reported 6,436,650 cases, followed by Argentina, 1,440,103 infections, and Colombia, 1,334,089 confirmed cases.
Mexico’s death total, 107,565, ranks it second in the region behind Brazil, where 174,515 people have died.
López Obrador, who frequently has downplayed the effect of the virus despite losing his cousin Úrsula Mojica to the coronavirus in July, compared politicians to dictators for their insistence on imposing lockdowns or curfews to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The Mexican leader said pandemic measures that limit people’s movements are ‘fashionable among authorities … who want to show they are heavy handed, dictatorship.’
‘A lot of them are letting their authoritarian instincts show,’ he said, adding ‘the fundamental thing is to guarantee liberty.’
It is unknown if López Obrador was lashing out at leaders abroad, or the mainly opposition-party local leaders who have tried to impose limits in Mexico.
As of Thursday, Mexico City, the capital, had reported 215,006 positive cases and 13,746 deaths, more than any other city in the country.
The use of face masks in public is required in Mexico City, which the Mexican president did not object to.
A nurse takes a blood sample from a person to perform a COVID-19 serological test in Escobedo, a city in the northeastern Mexico state of Nuevo León on Monday. The test reveals if a person has already had COVID-19, despite not having health problems or symptoms, by detecting if they have generated protective antibodies against this disease
Dressed in protective gear to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, a medical worker washes a patient’s hair at a military hospital set up to take care of COVID-19 patients in Mexico City on November 30
In October, the mayor Freddy Gil imposed a face mask mandate in the southwestern town of San Pedro Mixtepec and threatened his residents will jail time or community service if they refuse to wear face coverings as the city combats the spread of coronavirus.
It has also been reported that several criminal organizations, including the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel, had allegedly imposed lockdown measures in areas where they exerted power.
‘Anyone who wants to put on the mask and thus feel more secure can do so, I am not preventing it. What I want is for all of us to act responsibly and to take care of ourselves,’ López Obrador said. ‘If the mask is used and, if that way the person feels safer, go ahead, everyone got to have the mask. If an authority recommends it, you have to listen.’
The confirmed cases and death totals definitely caught the attention of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has urged Americans to avoid all travel to Mexico to due the the surge across the nation.
According its latest data, the pandemic has grown in Mexico by 7 percent in the past week.
The warnings from the CDC and WHO come as US airlines bolster their winter schedules with flights to popular beach destinations in Mexico, such as Cancun.
Last month, Mexico was the ‘clear leader’ for US-International air travel, according to Airlines for America [A4A].