Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, who has been criticized for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico, said he's tested positive for COVID-19.
López Obrador, known widely by his initials AMLO, announced his diagnosis on Twitter late Sunday.
"I regret to inform you that I am infected with COVID-19," he wrote. "The symptoms are mild but I am already under medical treatment.
"As always, I am optimistic."
López Obrador said he would continue working. He was scheduled to have a phone call Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the possibility of using Moscow's "Sputnik V" vaccine in Mexico.
Interior minister Olga Sanchez Cordero will temporarily serve as his deputy while he recovers, López Obrador said.
The Mexican president, who suffered a heart attack in 2013, has refused to wear a mask in public and told reporters last month that "everyone is free." He also said, "If using a mask makes a person feel safer, then go ahead."
López Obrador has said he would wait until late February to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Those who have criticized the Mexican leader's handling of the pandemic expressed little surprise at his diagnosis.
"One even expected or assumed, because of his way of exposing himself to so many people and not wearing a mask, that he would have been infected earlier," Carlos Magis Rodríguez, professor of medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told The New York Times.
"In all the public appearances of López Obrador, except for when he went to visit [former U.S. President Donald] Trump, we saw him without a face mask."
López Obrador has also refused to order coronavirus lockdowns, dismissing them as autocratic. He has also traveled, unmasked, throughout Mexico and was photographed with other maskless ministers Friday during a phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden.
COVID-19 cases have risen in Mexico in recent weeks and the country has the world's fourth-highest death toll, nearly 150,000. Hospitals have become overcrowded in Mexico City and Guanajuato, Michoacán and Puebla states.
Dr. Laurie Ann Ximenez-Fyvie, who runs the NAU microbiology laboratory, has called the coronavirus surge in Mexico "a giant snowball."