'No, no.': Mexican president rejects mask-wearing after COVID-19 recovery

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds his first news conference following a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 8, 2021. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday said he would not wear a face mask after his recovery from COVID-19, in spite of widespread support from top officials and the public for the measure.

In his first news conference since testing positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 24, Lopez Obrador brushed aside repeated questions from reporters about whether he would wear a mask to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“No, no,” the president said. “Additionally, according to what the doctors say, now I’m not contagious.”

When first asked on Monday whether he would set an example by wearing a mask, he skipped the question and instead launched into a polemic about his adversaries trying to thwart him.

The popular president is a strong advocate of free speech, and has used his daily morning news conferences to pillory opponents. Some critics argue he is unwilling to do anything that might make him look like he was being muzzled.

Unlike many of his top officials, Lopez Obrador has shunned face masks throughout the pandemic. His attitude, however, goes against the grain of Mexican public opinion, which is overwhelmingly of the view that wearing one is useful, polls show.

Following the president’s positive diagnosis, some Mexicans said they thought he could have avoided getting infected had he worn a mask and respected social-distancing measures more.

But Lopez Obrador praised his government for not imposing stricter curbs to contain the virus, which has killed more than 166,000 people in Mexico, the world’s third-highest death toll.

Reporting by Daina Solomon, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Dave Graham and Paul Simao