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Colombia coronavirus lockdown extended until Aug. 1


BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's national lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus will be extended by just over two weeks until Aug. 1, President Ivan Duque said on Tuesday.

The Andean country has reported more than 124,400 cases of the novel coronavirus and 4,359 deaths.

Duque declared a national lockdown in late March to slow coronavirus infections across the country. While thousands of businesses have begun reopening, the lockdown was due to be lifted on July 15.

"After analyzing the country and considering we have cities where the rate of cases has accelerated and grown, as well as the mortality rate, we have continued to work on preserving the mandatory preventive isolation as the general concept," Duque said in a nightly televised broadcast.

While the quarantine continues, municipalities with no coronavirus infections or with low infection rates will be allowed to open restaurants, theaters and gyms under strict protocols - including the use of face masks and social distancing - at the request of mayors.

Colombia currently has 490 municipalities with no coronavirus infections, while 100 have low infection rates, Duque said. A further 295 have not reported cases in the last three weeks.

Latin America's fourth-largest economy has been battered by the measures taken to slow the spread of coronavirus and a slump in oil prices. Crude oil is one of the country's top exports and sources of foreign exchange.

The government expects the economy to contract by 5.5% this year. The country has suspended its fiscal deficit limits for 2020 and 2021 and issued billions in bonds as unemployment rises and businesses close during the quarantine.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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