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At least 13 people were killed in a stampede at a nightclub in Peru when they tried to escape police who showed up to enforce COVID-19 restrictions on such gatherings.
According to Peru’s interior ministry, 120 people attended a party at Thomas Restobar Club in Lima’s Los Olivos district on Saturday night, despite prohibitions on social gatherings under the country’s state of emergency.
Nightclubs and bars were ordered closed in March, and extended family gatherings were banned earlier this month in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
After being alerted by neighbors around 9 p.m., according to the ministry, police arrived to evacuate the building. Party-goers tried to flee through a single exit, getting trampled and trapped in the staircase as a result.
Six other people, including three police officers, were injured. Twenty three people were detained.
“The Minister of the Interior deeply regrets the death of thirteen people as a result of the criminal irresponsibility of an unscrupulous businessman; and extends his deepest condolences to his family members,” reads the statement from the office of Jorge Montoya.
The ministry said that police did not use any weapons or tear gas on the scene, though the BBC reports one resident told RPP radio that the police threw tear gas canisters during the raid.
In a second statement, the interior ministry said again that police had not used firearms or tear gas at any point during the intervention, and had followed lawful, established protocols.
It also said the nightclub’s two owners, a married couple, were detained on Sunday.
Later that day, health officials said that 15 detainees had tested positive for the coronavirus, with 13 of those still actively contagious.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 585,000 people in Peru have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 27,450 have died. The country ranks sixth in the world for its total number of cases.