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World News

Peru shuts cemeteries for 'Day of the Dead' even as pandemic slows

FILE PHOTO: The mother of Andres Garcia Gonzalez, a nurse from the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) who died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), makes an altar to honor her son ahead of the Day of the Dead, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico October 29, 2020. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s government, wary about the coronavirus pandemic despite a slowdown of new cases, has asked people to stay away from cemeteries for the important Day of the Dead celebration when millions usually pay respects to relatives who have died.

The government of President Marin Vizcarra has urged people not to go to cemeteries on Sunday to visit the deceased for the Dia de los Difuntos, as the holiday is called in Spanish.

In capital Lima, the two largest cemeteries will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, when they normally receive around 100,000 people for the holiday, said Daniel Cáceda, manager of the entity that oversees the locations.

The South American country is nearing 900,000 cases of COVID-19 and, with around 34,400 deaths, has one of the highest fatality rates per capita in the world. New cases have, however, slowed markedly from a peak of around 10,000 daily in August.

The country recorded 2,666 new cases and 47 deaths on Thursday. The pandemic is affecting Day of the Dead celebrations in other countries as well, including Mexico and Bolivia.

Peru imposed a strict quarantine in March to curb the pandemic but began in May to ease restrictions to reactivate the economy, which is set to contract 12.7% this year, the worst in a century.

President Vizcarra has relaxed the restrictions in recent months and from November will allow the limited reopening of churches, museums and beaches. The government intends to keep bars and cinemas closed.

Vizcarra, who is facing political turbulence in addition to the pandemic due to constant clashes with the opposition-controlled Congress, has said that the country must learn to live with this “new normal” until vaccines arrive in 2021.

Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Aislinn Laing and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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