During his comments, which were broadcast directly on YouTube and Facebook, Governor Luis Miguel Barbosa asked a question and asked reporters what people were infected right now.
“The majority are rich people, you know,” he said, answering his own question. “If you are rich, you are at risk, but if you are poor, no, we are poor, we are immune.”
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the virus affects people in different ways because of financial status. His remarks sparked a riot on social media, with many questioning why a government official would disseminate information that actually has no basis.
Barbosa noted that many of those affected by the virus had recently traveled, suggesting a link between wealth and travel. Of Mexico̵
Asked about the remarks at a press conference on Thursday, Barbosa declined to comment.
As the pandemic spread throughout the world, López Obrador did not practice social distancing for as long as last week, trivializing the threat of the virus and telling families to live as they normally would. He has changed his tone in recent days, as Mexico’s fall count has more than doubled since March 20, urging people to stay safe and stay home.
Mexico’s federal government has also accelerated prevention measures recently. From what it calls Phase 2 of its crisis response, the government has shut down schools, closed down unnecessary federal offices and encouraged people to say home and social distance. A nightly press conference from the Ministry of Health updates the public on the status of the outbreak.
On Thursday morning, López Obrador told reporters that the worst of the outbreak would be over April 19. But Deputy Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramírez l told reporters shortly thereafter that there is a strong risk that the number of cases will increase exponentially, forcing the government to take stronger preventive measures.
Governor Barbosa is a member of López Obrador’s political party MORENA. His comments are also in conflict with preventive measures recently implemented in Puebla – measures not only aimed at the rich: On March 23, the Puebla government temporarily ceased all activities in theaters, cinemas, gyms, bars, zoos, among other places. The local government has also launched an online hygiene campaign including videos in Nahuatl, a native language spoken by more than one million people across the country.