by Mark Stevenson
MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said on Tuesday he was hoarse and had a sore throat after testing positive for COVID-19 for the second time.
López Obrador suggested he had the Omicron version, adding that “this new version of COVID is not very harmful.” He is isolating himself and speaking in a video message to the country’s diplomats. “It’s like a cold,” he said.
The president’s re-infection mirrors a spike in coronavirus cases in Mexico that appears to be due to the spread of the Omicron variant. While there has so far been little increase in new hospitalizations or deaths, many Mexicans expressed a sense of fear and unease.
There has been a widespread shortage of coronavirus tests in a country that already tests very few, and on Tuesday, some private pharmacies — once the last hope of a test for those who charge $15 to $ for antigen tests. 25 – announced that he had run out of kit.
“The worst is yet to come,” said Oscar Galindo, 35, a financial services worker in downtown Mexico City. “There are people who don’t take precautions, who aren’t vaccinated, and they’re creating new types in their bodies.”
Vaccine uptake has been relatively high in Mexico, where most people consider themselves lucky to see huge crowds at hospitals last January, when people lined up to fill up oxygen cylinders to treat relatives at home. Used to wait
Even Javier Nolasco, a 21-year-old law student who has been fully vaccinated and wears a face mask, felt what appears to be a fourth wave of the coronavirus in Mexico.
“We all have to take all the precautions,” Nolasco said. “It’s been bad for the economy and social life.”
But López Obrador predicted that “this virus is on its way” and that “things will return to normal very soon.”
The president appeared on a video feed at the morning press briefing he usually walks at the National Palace in Mexico City. At least two members of his cabinet also tested positive in recent days, and López Obrador said he would wear a mask – something he loathed to do.
The president said in that video that “fortunately, this version doesn’t have the degree of danger to Delta, and I’m experiencing it.”
López Obrador said he did not have a fever, and that his oxygenation was good. The president has been fully vaccinated, and has received a booster shot.
Health Secretary Jorge Alcosar said López Obrador could return to the briefing as early as next week.
Galindo said Mexico had let its guard down a bit during the holidays. In Mexico City, most people in the city still strictly wear face masks, but large family get-togethers are a holiday tradition.
“It got a little out of control,” Galindo said. “When the December holidays come around, everyone has a party, and we all have parties.”
In 2021, López Obrador returned to his daily news briefing in February after a two-week absence when he caught the coronavirus in January.
At the time, López Obrador revealed that he had received experimental treatments, which he described only as an “antiviral” drug and an anti-inflammatory drug.
This time, the president said he was only taking paracetamol, a mild pain medication.
On Monday, the president told Mexicans to assume they have COVID-19 if they have symptoms. The number of confirmed cases increased by 186% last week.
López Obrador claimed the Omicron variant is “little COVID”, noting that hospitalizations and deaths have not increased at the same rate as new cases. However, experts say that these are both backward indicators that may not show up for weeks after the infection has progressed. In the US, where the Omicron wave hit Mexico before it hit, COVID-19 deaths have started rising again.
Reading advice posted on Twitter, the president said Mexicans with symptoms should stay at home, take paracetamol and isolate rather than trying to go out and find tests.
Since Christmas, private pharmacies and few available testing centers have been overwhelmed with long lines. Twitter’s advice is based on guidelines from Mexico City and other health officials.
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 testing for employees.
Mexico has also been one of the few countries that has not implemented lockdowns, flight restrictions or mandatory face mask requirements.
Mexico passed 300,000 test-confirmed coronavirus deaths last week, but so little is tested in the country of 126 million that a government review of death certificates puts the actual toll at around 460,000.