Despite the affection President López Obrador frequently shows his supporters in the form of hugs, kisses and handshakes, he is no more likely to pass on coronavirus to others than anyone else because his force is “moral” rather than one of “contagion,” according to Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell.
The official’s claim came in response to a question asked by a reporter at the president’s regular news conference on Monday morning.
“If he [López Obrador] becomes a carrier [of Covid-19] and he goes … to areas of high marginalization, could he pass on [the disease] or not?” a reporter asked López-Gatell.
“The force of the president is moral, it’s not a force of contagion,” the deputy health minister responded.
“In terms of a person, an individual who could infect others, the president has the same probability of transmitting [Covid-19] as you or me. And you also do trips, tours and are in society. The president is not a force of contagion so there is no reason why he’ll be a person who infects the masses,” he said.
The reporter’s question and López-Gatell’s response came a day after López Obrador concluded a tour of Guerrero during which he followed through with his pledge to continue to greet citizens with hugs and kisses despite the deputy health minister’s advice to avoid such salutations.
López-Gatell also told reporters on Monday that even though López Obrador is older than 60 (he’s 66), he’s not at “special risk” of suffering a serious illness if he becomes infected with Covid-19 because he’s in good health.
“I’m going to tell you a very pragmatic thing. It would almost be better that he had coronavirus because most likely he, as an individual, like the majority of people, will recover quickly and he’ll be left immune and then nobody would have to worry about him,” he said.
For his part, Lopez Obrador said that he will suspend his tours of the country and making close contact with his supporters when López-Gatell advises him to do so.
“He’ll tell me when it’s not a good idea for me to meet with a lot of people or that I shouldn’t go on these tours … or give hugs and kisses, … he’ll tell me when,” he said.
The president also said that he could hold his morning press conferences without the physical presence of reporters.
“I would come here [to the National Palace], you in the distance, and we would be talking and communicating with the people. What I can’t do is come with a face mask because you would say, ‘if that’s the way the president is, how will the people be?’ I have to give the people encouragement, security,” López Obrador said.
Later on Monday, opposition lawmakers took aim at López-Gatell for his claim that the president is no more likely to pass on Covid-19 than anyone else because he doesn’t have a “force of contagion.”
“They [the government] even use the pandemic for [the purposes of] populism and [to cultivate] a cult of personality,” Democratic Revolution Party Deputy Guadalupe Almaguer wrote on Twitter. “What irresponsibility [on the part] of Hugo López-Gatell.”
National Action Party Deputy Marco Adame wrote on Twitter that the deputy health minister “loses authority by trying to justify the conduct of the president,” adding “it’s not his role.”
Citizens’ Movement Senator Clemente Castañeda appeared to take a swipe at both López Obrador and López-Gatell in one short tweet accompanied by footage of the latter speaking while standing next to the president.
“In times of pandemic, even ineptitude is contagious,” he wrote.