Monday, 30th October 2017

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China mourns its virus ‘martyrs’

More than 3,300 people in mainland China have died in the epidemic

By Reuters in Beijing
  • Published 5.04.20, 12:30 AM
  • Updated 5.04.20, 12:30 AM
  • a min read
  •  
People bow their heads during a national moment of mourning for victims of coronavirus at the Bund in Shanghai (AP photo)

China on Saturday mourned the thousands of “martyrs” who have died in the new coronavirus outbreak, flying the national flag at half mast throughout the country and suspending all forms of entertainment.

The day of mourning coincided with the start of the annual Qingming tomb-sweeping festival, when millions of Chinese families pay respects to their ancestors.

At 10am (0200 GMT) 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 raid sirens wailed.

In Zhongnanhai, the seat of political power in Beijing, President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders paid silent tribute in front of the national flag, with white flowers pinned to their chest as a mark of mourning, state media reported.

More than 3,300 people in mainland China have died in the epidemic, which first surfaced in the central province of Hubei late last year, according to statistics published by the National Health Commission.

In Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicentre of the outbreak, all traffic lights in urban areas turned red at 10am and all road traffic ceased for three minutes.

Some 2,567 people have died in Wuhan, a megacity of 11 million people located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze river. The Wuhan deaths account for more than 75 per cent 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 thousands of Wuhan locals 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.

“If you weren’t at the frontlines you wouldn't be able to experience this,” said Gui, as he laid some flowers next to Wuhan's 1954 flood memorial by the Yangtze.