Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who once downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, has revealed that relatives have died and been infected with the virus.
López Obrador, who has at times faced heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic, was asked during a Thursday morning press briefing about media reports that one of his cousins was hospitalized after contracting coronavirus.
‘Yes. Yes, I do have relatives who are ill. Unfortunately, relatives have also lost their lives,’ he said.
López Obrador, who has upset critics with his reluctance to wear a face mask, did not say which of his relatives had died from COVID-19.
But Mexican news El Universal confirmed that his cousin, Úrsula Mojica Obrador, is battling a coronavirus infection.
The 69-year-old, who is heavily involved with her cousin’s Morena political party, is from the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
She reportedly has been hospitalized at a medical facility in Tampico since July 2 and is in critical condition although she is not connected to a ventilator.
Several outlets reported that her husband, Pedro Salazar and son, Pedro Salazar Mojica, died from the virus.
At the start of the pandemic, López Obrador encouraged people to hug each other and to keep going out.
He later changed tack, but critics fear the government is reopening the economy before it has the virus under control.
Mexico has reported 362,274 coronavirus infections, the seventh highest case count globally, and 41,190 deaths. It has the world’s fourth highest death toll, after the United States, Brazil and Britain.
López Obrador has criticized news media for reporting Mexico’s rise up the ranks of the world’s most hard-hit countries, saying the death toll per capita is a more fair representation.