Colombia extends health state of emergency, seeks more Sinovac vaccines

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FILE PHOTO: Colombia's President Ivan Duque speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bogota

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will extend its health state of emergency to curb the spread of coronavirus by three months, President Ivan Duque said on Thursday, adding that the country is in talks to buy additional doses of coronavirus vaccines produced by China's Sinovac Biotech.

Colombia earlier announced agreements with a raft of pharmaceutical companies - including Sinovac - as well as the World Health Organization-backed COVAX mechanism to secure 61.5 million vaccine doses, enough to inoculate some 32.5 million people.

However, the country is in talks to buy additional doses from Sinovac, Duque said in his nightly television broadcast.

"We have also progressed with Sinovac for the additional acquisition of vaccines in our country, which could be around 10 million more doses," Duque said.

Colombia has already secured 5 million extra Sinovac doses and is in talks to secure up to an additional 5 million, he added.

Colombia's health state of emergency was due to end on Feb. 28 but will now continue until at least May 31, Duque said.

"The large majority of countries are upholding states of emergency and we will do the same," he said.

Large public events, including concerts, will continue to be suspended, although a return to schools will go ahead, with students alternating between virtual and physical attendance.

Colombia has so far reported more than 2.24 million coronavirus infections, as well as 59,396 deaths, according to the health ministry.

The country has so far administered 66,000 vaccine doses to health workers and those aged over 80, per the national vaccination plan.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Aurora Ellis)