China mourns coronavirus ‘martyrs’ during national day of reflection

With air raid sirens wailing and flags at half-mast, China has held a three-minute nationwide moment of reflection to honour those who have died in the coronavirus outbreak.

Commemorations took place at 10am local time in all major cities, but were particularly poignant in Wuhan, the industrial centre where the virus was first detected in December.

The State Council ordered that national flags be flown at half-mast around the country and at Chinese embassies and consulates abroad, and the suspension of all public events.

Cars, trains and ships joined in what the official Xinhua News Agency called a “wail in grief” for three minutes.

China has held similar tributes in the past but rarely on a national scale.

Wuhan was placed under complete lockdown on 23 January in an effort to stem the spread of the virus and has been lauded as a “heroic city” by the nation’s communist leadership for the sacrifices made by its 11 million citizens.

People have gradually been allowed to travel in and out of Wuhan under strict conditions and the quarantine on the city is to be formally lifted on Wednesday.

On Saturday, China reported one new confirmed case in Wuhan and 18 among people arriving from abroad, along with four new deaths, all in Wuhan.

China now has recorded a total of 81,639 cases and 3,326 deaths, although those figures are generally considered to be understated because of a lack of testing and a reluctance to report the scale of the original outbreak.

More than 3,000 health care workers contracted COVID-19 and the government says 14 died of the disease.

Among them was Dr Li Wenliang, who was threatened with punishment by police after publicising news of the outbreak but has since been listed among the national “martyrs”.

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