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Colombia passes half a million coronavirus cases as deaths approach 16,000

FILE PHOTO: A medical team member takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in one of the neighbourhoods where the mayor's office decreed strict quarantine, amidst an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota, Colombia July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Coronavirus cases in Colombia surpassed 500,000 on Wednesday as deaths from the virus approach 16,000 and the country nears the end of five months of lockdown.

The Andean country has 502,178 confirmed cases of the virus according to the health ministry, with 15,979 reported deaths. Active cases number 158,893.

President Ivan Duque declared an ongoing nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus in late March.

Most businesses are gradually reopening or allowed to function via delivery. The lockdown is set to continue to the end of August, with stricter limitations in some neighborhoods of the capital Bogota where infections are higher.

Intensive care units in Bogota are at about 82% capacity, according to local health authorities. The capital is home to more than a third of Colombia’s cases.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Sam Holmes