June 14, 2020 / 10:23 PM / a month ago

Colombia's confirmed coronavirus cases rise above 50,000

BOGOTA, June 14 (Reuters) - Reported coronavirus cases in Colombia have risen to over 50,000, the country’s health ministry said on Sunday, as neighboring Ecuador approaches the same milestone.

Colombia has reported 50,939 cases of coronavirus and 1,667 deaths. In Ecuador, cases have surpassed 46,700 and deaths stand at 3,896.

The disease overwhelmed Ecuador’s health system, in some cases leaving authorities unable to collect the bodies of the deceased and forcing the government to temporarily store corpses in refrigerated shipping containers.

Colombia’s economy has been battered by the twin ills of a coronavirus quarantine put in place by President Ivan Duque and falling oil prices.

The country entered a national lockdown in late March which is expected to lift on July 1.

However, as certain sectors start to reopen and the quarantine begins to lift, medics are bracing for a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The lockdown has led to thousands of businesses being shuttered, causing rising joblessness.

In April, unemployment in Colombia hit an historic 23.5% in urban areas, equivalent to more than 4 million people out of work, as the government promised further aid measures to help those most affected. Colombia’s economy will contract 5.5% in 2020, according to the finance ministry, due to the semi-paralysis caused by the quarantine.

The country looks set to widen its fiscal deficit to 6.1% of GDP - equivalent to more than 60 trillion pesos ($16 billion) - from an original 2.2% of GDP.

($1 = 3,758.15 pesos)

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; editing by Diane Craft

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