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Agencies
April 5, 2020

China mourns COVID-19 victims with three-minute silence

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Agencies
April 5, 2020

BEIJING: A day of remembrance was declared in China on Saturday to honour the more than 3,300 people who died of COVID-19.At 10:00 local time (03:00 GMT), people stood still nationwide for three minutes in tribute to the dead. Cars, trains and ships then sounded their horns, air raid sirens rang as flags were flown at half-mast. The first cases of coronavirus were detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province late last year. Since then, the virus has swept the globe, infecting more than one million people and killing nearly 60,000 in 181 countries. In Wuhan, the epicentre of China's outbreak, all traffic lights in urban areas were turned red at 10:00, ceasing traffic for three minutes. China's government said the event was a chance to pay respects to "martyrs", a reference to the 14 medical workers who died battling the virus. They include Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan who died of COVID-19 after being reprimanded by the authorities for attempting to warn others about the disease. "I feel a lot of sorrow about our colleagues and patients who died," a Chinese nurse who treated coronavirus patients told AFP. "I hope they can rest well in heaven."

Wearing white flowers pinned to their chest, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other government officials paid silent tribute in Beijing. Saturday's commemorations coincide with the annual Qingming festival, when millions of Chinese families pay respects to their ancestors. China first informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about cases of pneumonia with unknown causes on 31 December last year. By 18 January, the confirmed number of cases had risen to around 60 - but experts estimated the real figure was closer to 1,700. Just two days later, as millions of people prepared to travel for the lunar new year, the number of cases more than tripled to more than 200 and the virus was detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. From that point, the virus began to spread rapidly in Asia and then Europe, eventually reaching every corner of the globe.