Colombia takes first step to reopen international flights

BOGOTA, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Colombia's government said on Thursday it was taking the first step toward re-opening international flights after more than five months, saying it was unlikely to increase transmission of the coronavirus.

The health ministry did not give a date for renewed flights. It said other authorities including the civil aviation agency will evaluate its re-opening proposal.

"In consideration of the current state of the pandemic in Colombia, given it is unlikely international flights will increase transmission, and the progressive opening permitted by the new state of emergency, the conditions to keep international flights to and from the great capitals of the country closed do not persist," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it had analyzed international studies about flight infection risks, which concluded that risks varied depending on the pandemic's behavior in departure and destination locations.

The Andean country halted international and national flights and closed its land and water borders in March as it began a national lockdown set to end at the close of this month.

Limited national flights have resumed as restrictions have loosened, but borders will remain closed until at least the start of October.

The government said the country, which has more than 570,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 18,000 deaths, is passing its infection peak.

Occupancy of hospital intensive care units is falling in the capital Bogota, which has more than a third of the country's cases.

Restrictions on events and large crowds will remain during a "selective" quarantine in September while the government evaluates the spread of the virus, but roads will open and restaurants will be able to operate at 25% capacity.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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