Colombia extends health state of emergency until end of February

FILE PHOTO: People sit in public spaces without keeping social distance, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Bogota, Colombia October 23, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s government will extend its health state of emergency by three months, President Ivan Duque said on Wednesday, as he urged people to avoid crowds and keep up safety measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Andean country has had over 1.27 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and nearly 36,000 deaths. Active cases number 57,260.

It held a gradually-loosened national quarantine for five and a half months earlier this year, sending economic growth into negative territory and unemployment soaring.

Most economic activities are now allowed, as are international flights, but face masks are required in public. Concerts and other large events are banned.

“The sanitary emergency will extend until February 28, 2021,” Duque said on his nightly television program. “We will extend this process for 90 days and we’re doing it to maintain control (and) detailed monitoring.”

Duque urged viewers to avoid crowds and use safety measures to avoid second outbreaks like those seen in Europe.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Kim Coghill