Mexico president tries to shoo away crowds as virus persists

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador loves hugging supporters and shaking hands in crowds but even he appears to be spooked by the country’s continued high coronavirus infection rates, shooing away fans and warning them not to come to see him.

López Obrador visited the northern border city of Reynosa, across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, on Friday and told an audience he considers anyone who joins a crowd to see him as an opponent, not a supporter.

“From now on, if I see you show up, I am going to look at you like you’re someone who doesn’t like us,” the president said. “Anyone who shows up today is a conservative.”

Mexico reported 5,824 more confirmed coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the total to 585,738, and 552 more COVID-19 deaths, for a total of 63,146, the third-highest in the world. Health Department figures show infection rates appear to have plateaued at relatively high levels.

Despite the continued high rates nationwide, Mexico moved nine more of the country’s 32 states to the “yellow”or “moderate” risk on a four-color scale. One state, Colima, remains in maximum alert and one state, Campeche, had already been in the moderate zone. The rest, including Mexico City, remain in the “orange” or high-risk rating.

The moderate-risk rating now covers about one-third of Mexican states and means businesses can reopen to a greater extent, in some cases at full capacity. They include the northern border states of Chihuahua, Sonora and Tamaulipas, the Gulf coast states of Veracruz, Tabasco and Campeche, and the Pacific coast states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas.

On Thursday, in the nearby border city of Matamoros, he appeared to cut short one of his notoriously long speeches when he saw a crowd gather outside the event.

“Yesterday a lot of people showed up to see us in Matamoros,” he said. “Because of the pandemic we have tried to make these closed meetings to keep a safe distance, yesterday we didn’t achieve that goal and it is very dangerous for a lot of people to crowd together because of infection.”

However, López Obrador almost never wears a face mask and has resisted calls to stop touring the country during the pandemic.

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