For nearly a year, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, had minimized the pandemic, claiming that religious amulets protected him, refusing to wear a mask and even drinking from the same clay pot as supporters. It was only a matter of time until he got sick himself, some Mexicans said.
With the president now infected, what most aggrieved many Mexicans was not only that he had flouted basic safety precautions, but also that he may go back to playing down the threat that the surging pandemic poses after his own illness.
They noted that with top-notch medical care delivered at his living quarters, the president may well recover. Their loved ones, on the other hand, will struggle to get the most basic care.
A devastated Mexico is struggling to rein in the pandemic. Last Thursday, the authorities announced more than 1,800 coronavirus deaths, breaking the record of single-day deaths set just days earlier.
In Mexico City, hospitals are at 89 percent capacity, according to the most recent health ministry figures, while nationwide, the figure is 60 percent. Across the country, more than half of all hospital beds with ventilators are full.
So far, more than 1.7 million people have contracted the virus in Mexico and more than 150,000 people have died. That is the fourth-highest death toll in the world.
Amid widespread mistrust of hospitals, many infected people choose to stay home — and often die there. The cause of death may not be listed as Covid-19. That, combined with the country’s low levels of testing, means the pandemic’s true toll is most likely far worse than the official one.
On Monday, the day after the president disclosed his infection, Carlos Slim, a telecommunications tycoon who is the richest man in Mexico, was also reported to have contracted the virus. His son said on Twitter that Mr. Slim, who turns 81 this week, had mild symptoms and was doing “very well.”
While Mr. López Obrador also said that his symptoms were mild and that he “remained positive,” doctors warned that the 67-year-old heart attack survivor was in a high-risk category.
And it remains to be seen if his own bout with the virus will change his attitude toward it.
Mr. López Obrador is not the first world leader to fall ill with coronavirus.
Early last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain famously persisted in shaking hands with Covid-19 patients and later was admitted to a hospital himself after contracting the illness.
Mr. Johnson emerged sounding chastened, and with a new, intimate awareness of the virus’s danger. He went on to embrace mask wearing and lockdowns and other measures designed to help stem transmission.
But in Mexico, some public health experts fear their leader will go more the way of former President Donald J. Trump, who beat the virus last year and then continued to play down the pandemic and undermine health officials’ recommendations.