China holds national day of mourning for thousands of coronavirus victims

Flags were flown at half-mast throughout China today as the country mourned the thousands of ‘martyrs’ who lost their lives to the coronavirus pandemic.

The national day in morning coincided with the start of the annual Qingming tomb-sweeping festival, when millions of Chinese families pay respects to their ancestors. At 10am Beijing time, the country observed three minutes of silence to mourn those who died, including frontline medical workers and doctors.

Cars, trains and ships sounded their horns and air sirens wailed and all forms of entertainment were suspended for the day. The People’s Republic has recorded more than 80,000 cases and 3,000 deaths since the outbreak began in December.

The majority of cases were in Wuhan, Hubei province, where the Sars-like virus was first detected in December. The nation’s communist leadership hailed it as a ‘heroic city’ for the hardships and sacrifices of 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.

All traffic lights in the city turned red at 10am and road traffic ceased for three minutes as people paid their respects to the dead.

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Some 2,567 people have died in the city of 11 million people, accounting for more than 75% of the country’s fatalities.

Among those who died was Li Wenliang, a young doctor who tried to raise the alarm about the disease.

Li was honoured by the Hubei government earlier this week, after initially being reprimanded by police in Wuhan for ‘spreading rumours’.

Gui Yihong, 27, who was among the thousands who volunteered to deliver food supplies to hospitals during the city’s months-long lockdown, recalled the fear, frustration and pain at Wuhan Central Hospital, where Li worked.

Laying some flowers next to Wuhan’s 1954 flood memorial by the Yangtze river, lhe local said: ‘If you weren’t at the frontlines you wouldn’t be able to experience this.

‘I had to (come) and bear witness. For the last 80 days we had fought between life and death, and finally gained victory. It was not easy at all to come by.’

While the worst was behind Wuhan, the virus has spread to all corners of the globe since January, sickening more than a million people, killing more than 55,000 and paralysing the world economy.

Wuhan banned all tomb-sweeping activities in its cemeteries until at least April 30, curtailing one of the most important dates in the traditional Chinese lunar new year calendar which usually sees millions of families travel to tend to their ancestral graves, offer flowers and burn incense.

They have also told residents, most stuck at home due to lockdown restrictions, to use online streaming services to watch cemetery staff carry out those tasks live.

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