Published on : Saturday, April 4, 2020
Chinese President Xi Jinping led the whole country on Saturday in observing a national day of mourning for those who lost their lives in the coronavirus pandemic. Clad in black, Xi paid his respects to victims of the outbreak with three minutes of silence starting at 10am. As people stood in silence, the sound of air sirens blasted across the country along with horns from cars, trains, and ships.
All of the six other Politburo Standing Committee members also joined the ceremony, along with other senior leaders including Vice President Wang Qishan, Vice Premier Liu He, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, Politburo member Yang Jiechi, director of the General Office of the Communist Party Ding Xuexiang and Beijing party chief Cai Qi. This is the first time China has held a national day of mourning for a public health crisis.
In Wuhan, a separate ceremony was led by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, Hubei party chief Ying Yong and head of National Health Commission Ma Xiaowei, with other participants – some of whom wore medical clothing.
Xi and his fellow mourners were not wearing masks in line with current guidelines that state they not necessary in small gatherings and at home.
The sombre event coincided with the annual Ching Ming, or tomb-sweeping, festival, when people pay their respects to their ancestors and lost loved ones.
Beijing announced on Friday that the day of mourning would be for the “martyrs” and “compatriots” who had died during the pandemic, as the country has sought to slowly relax travel restrictions and resume work. While families customarily gather together for Ching Ming, the government this year urged that control measures be taken to avoid further spread of the virus.
Those steps include suspending the holding of remembrance services in high-risk areas, limiting the number of people in gatherings and encouraging the use of online funeral services. Since Covid-19 first spread from Wuhan in central China at the end of last year, the country has officially reported 81,639 confirmed cases and 3,326 deaths. Nearly 3,400 medical workers were reported to have been infected, with more than a dozen deaths.
The flags across the country and at overseas embassies were flown at half-mast, and all public entertainment was suspended for the day. The national days of mourning are uncommon in China, but recent events include memorials for the 69,181 people who died in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008, the Yushu quake in April 2010 and the Gansu landslides in August 2010.