Peru's Vizcarra says coronavirus outbreak at its peak, expected to begin slow decline

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lima

By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's rate of coronavirus cases is peaking and will begin a slow decline, President Martin Vizcarra said on Wednesday, as the country moves into a "final stage" of lockdown more than two months after the first case was detected in the South American nation.

Peru, which has the second highest rate of coronavirus cases in Latin America, will continue to enforce social distancing, particularly in markets, banks and public transportation, Vizcarra said.

"In this last stage of the state of emergency, we have to ratify all the good that we have done, which is enough, and to correct the defects," Vizcarra said during a press conference.

Coronavirus cases in Peru rose to 76,306 on Wednesday, up by 4,247 from a day earlier. The death toll was 2,169, up by 112, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Only Brazil has a higher infection rate in Latin America, at 177,589 confirmed cases.

The lockdown is scheduled to end on May 24. Until then, Peruvians will be under a nightly curfew with military surveillance to ensure compliance, a situation not seen in Peru for three decades.

Some markets in Peru were temporarily closed after testing showed that between 45% and 79% of merchants in capital Lima had contracted coronavirus, most of them asymptomatic, Vizcarra said.

Some other key sectors of the economy such as mining, fishing and construction have begun a gradual restart of a activities.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Alistair Bell)