Sweeping Covid-19 lockdown in Peru as virus cases soar

Only essential services such as markets, pharmacies and banks can remain open.
Only essential services such as markets, pharmacies and banks can remain open.PHOTO: AFP

LIMA (AFP) - Sixteen million Peruvians will enter a two-week coronavirus lockdown covering a third of the country at the end of January, Peru's interim president said Tuesday (Jan 26).

The South American nation's healthcare system has been overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic - with only 500 intensive care beds for a population of 32 million - with the authorities reporting a spike in deaths as infections increase.

The country's lockdown will run from Jan 31 to Feb 14, Interim President Francisco Sagasti said in a televised address, blaming the soaring Covid-19 infections on end-of-year gatherings.

"We must all contribute so that the suffering does not extend to new people," Mr Sagasti said.

The mandatory lockdown will affect 16.4 million people - half of Peru's population - and include the capital Lima.

Only essential services such as markets, pharmacies and banks can remain open. Churches were ordered closed.

In areas not affected by the strict lockdown, restrictions remain in place, such as curfews and bans on social gatherings.

Mr Sagasti also announced a halt on flights from Brazil - the country with the world's second highest coronavirus death toll after the United States.

Peru's average daily caseload has risen from around 1,000 to more than 5,000, figures not seen since the height of the pandemic last year.

The death rate has jumped from an average of 40 a day to more than 100, according to government figures, and as at Tuesday, 40,107 Peruvians have died of Covid-19.