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After criticism, Mexico president to tone down some events

March 18, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2019 file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador listens to questions during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City. Shortly before taking office Lopez Obrador decided to create an army of volunteers dubbed the “servants of the nation,” to canvass people who receive government benefits collecting their personal information in part to see if they might be eligible for yet more help from various programs promised during the campaign for the likes of farmers, the disabled, unemployed youth and the elderly. The effort alarmed opposition political parties who saw it as an attempt to illegally use public funds to promote López Obrador and his leftist Morena party. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2019 file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador listens to questions during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City. Shortly before taking office Lopez Obrador decided to create an army of volunteers dubbed the “servants of the nation,” to canvass people who receive government benefits collecting their personal information in part to see if they might be eligible for yet more help from various programs promised during the campaign for the likes of farmers, the disabled, unemployed youth and the elderly. The effort alarmed opposition political parties who saw it as an attempt to illegally use public funds to promote López Obrador and his leftist Morena party. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Tuesday finally moved to scale back the large-scale public appearances that appeared to contradict official admonishments for people to avoid large crowds to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

López Obrador said at his morning news conference that he would attend a Saturday celebration for the birthday of revered former President Benito Juárez.

But he urged people from outside the small Oaxaca state town of Guelatao, where Juárez was born, to stay away, saying he didn’t want to open himself to criticism “that the president is not setting an example.”

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Mexico had 93 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of the most recent report, Tuesday evening, with 11 patients hospitalized, but no deaths. The virus causes only mild to moderate symptoms, such as fever or cough, for most people. It can cause more severe illness, such as pneumonia, for some, especially older people and those with existing health problems,

Bracing for the virus to hit Mexico harder, authorities have been urging people to avoid large gatherings, to stop greeting each other with handshakes, hugs and kisses and to maintain a “healthy distance” from each other.

Until now, however, López Obrador has continued to hug, kiss, shake hands and pose for selfies amid packed crowds.