By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s reported coronavirus cases rapidly increased this week and topped 20,000 on Thursday, doubling in nine days, as President Martin Vizcarra extended a national quarantine in the world’s No. 2 copper producer.
The crisis has left millions without jobs and Peru’s hospitals are straining to deal with a rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 infections, with bodies being kept in hallways, masks being repeatedly reused, and protests breaking out amongst medical workers concerned over their safety.
Vizcarra extended the national quarantine to May 10 from April 26 previously. The health ministry says it expects patient numbers to peak within days or in the following week.
Even Peru’s coca farmers, who grow the bushy plant used to make cocaine, have seen prices fall 70% and plan to ask the government to buy up excess inventory, according to a Reuters report.
Peru recorded its first coronavirus case on March 6 and took 25 days to reach 1,000 cases. It took only 14 more days to reach 10,000 cases on April 14, according to a Reuters tally. Cases doubled again to 20,914 confirmed cases on Thursday. Peru has a total of 572 deaths.
Peru has the second-highest number of cases in South America after Brazil, despite a tough lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus.
On March 15, Peru announced it would close its borders and called on citizens to self-quarantine for 15 days with just 71 recorded coronavirus cases.
Peru’s government has announced a massive economic stimulus package worth 90 billion soles ($26.41 billion), around 12% of gross domestic product, to support citizens and the key mining sector.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Andrea Ricci)