Mexico’s Point-Man on Coronavirus Seen Vacationing, Maskless

Jan 4, 2021
5:52 PM

Mexico’s coronavirus response leader Hugo López-Gatell points to a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine during its first applications into health workers at the General Hospital in Mexico City, early Thursday, December 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government official in charge of efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic has been spotted at a Pacific coast beach, apparently sitting at sea-side restaurant without a face mask on.

Assistant Health Secretariat Hugo López-Gatell has repeatedly counselled Mexicans to stay at home, not to go out and not to travel.

He has also cast doubt on how whether face masks protect people from catching coronavirus.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not seem too worried about the revelation Monday, calling López-Gatell “a good public servant.”

“It’s a good thing that there is this scrutiny, but a public servant has rights, too,” said López Obrador, who said he would leave it to the assistant health secretary to explain his own actions.

Over the weekend, local media posted photos of López-Gatell sitting in the open-air restaurant, reportedly in the laid-back beach resort of Zipolite, in southern Oaxaca state, which has mandatory rules about face masks.

The photos caused anger in Mexico, which has seen nearly 1.45 million coronavirus cases and just over 127,000 deaths.

But Oaxaca state spokesman Francisco Vallejo said customers at restaurants are allowed to take off their masks when dining, and said the state’s beaches, while regulated, were not closed.