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AMLO Begins Muting Virus Skepticism, Urges Workers Be Sent Home

Lorena Rios and Nacha Cattan

(Bloomberg) -- After fielding criticism about his lax attitude toward the coronavirus, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador appears to be changing his tone and on Thursday called on companies to send their workers home.

Mexico formally announced this week it’s heading into a so-called phase 2, or community transmission of the virus, and Wednesday night said all non-essential government employees would have to work from home.

“If you are a company that doesn’t have a basic social function, businessmen should help us, at least this month, until April 19, by sending their workers home with benefits,” Lopez Obrador said at his morning news conference.

The president also told Mexicans in the U.S. not to travel unless it’s vital. He’s still, however, keeping all flights open into Mexico.

The president has been called out by some medical experts, and on Thursday by Human Rights Watch, for recommending that people go about their daily routines to avoid an economic shutdown, which he’s repeated as recently as Sunday. His government’s relatively relaxed attitude toward the virus stands in contrast to that of the U.S., where lockdowns are happening in several big cities, but also to other Latin American nations.

Read More: Mexico President Pushes Business Tensions to Boiling Point

It’s not yet clear how extensive his shift in attitude will become after he was seen hugging and kissing followers in mid-March; he promised Wednesday he would stop doing that.

How he conducts his frequent tours to several Mexican states in the next few days may show how serious he’s taking his own advice.

“President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is putting the people of Mexico in grave danger with his reckless disregard for providing accurate information on the Covid-19 pandemic,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Mexico had 475 confirmed cases of coronavirus and six deaths as of Wednesday night.

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