By now, the world has learned that no one is immune from SARS-CoV-2 but a state governor in Mexico has a theory: poor people are immune to the coronavirus.
Mexico had 844 confirmed cases as of Sunday morning, and Gov. Luis Miguel Barbosa of the state of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City, said, “The majority are wealthy people.” He was referring to a recent government report that found three-quarters of the country’s cases are people who returned from international travel.
“If you are rich, you are at risk,” Barbosa said in a news conference that was broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook. “If you are poor, no. We poor people, we are immune.”
“Barbosa also seemed to be appealing to an old belief that poor sanitation standards increase immunity by exposing people to more bacteria,” Fox News reported.
“Mexico’s deputy health secretary Hugo López-Gatell this week announced the federal government will halt all nonessential activities and the country has closed schools nationwide through April 20,” Fox wrote.
But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador opposes a stay-at-home order and on Tuesday told reporters Mexico would be through “the worst of it” within a month, The Guardian reported.
The U.K. newspaper said Barbosa’s comments “sparked controversy in a country where nearly half of the population are poor and the majority work in the informal economy.”
They also reflected the almost conspiratorial response of many Mexican politicians toward Covid-19, which threatens to wreck the government’s agenda of mega-projects and expanding social programmes.
The country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose administration has promised to “put the poor first”, has responded with breezy optimism to the crisis. He told reporters on Tuesday that Mexico would be past the “worst of it” within a month.
López Obrador has resisted stiffer measures, such as quarantine and border closures, on the grounds that poor Mexicans are unable to afford not to work.
“The economy is in a nosedive and his base, the poor, is getting the short end of the stick,” Esteban Illades, the editor of Nexos magazine, said of the president’s motives. “A weak economy means his legacy is compromised.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says everyone is at risk of catching the virus. “Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. These people who may be at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness, includes:
- Older adults
- People who have serious underlying medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
The CDC also says that “Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.” And the CDC said “with viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.”