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China held a rare, three-minute nationwide moment of reflection Saturday to remember coronavirus victims, with cars, trains and ships blaring their horns in what state media described as a coordinated “wail of grief.”
The commemorations come as Wuhan -- the industrial city where the virus was first detected in December – is set to have its quarantine formally lifted on Wednesday.
In Beijing, President Xi Jinping led other top officials, all dressed in black suits with white carnations, as they bowed before a flag at half-staff. China has held such moments of reflection in the past, often to mark World War II-era atrocities by Japan, but rarely on a national scale.
Wuhan was placed under complete lockdown on Jan. 23 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.
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.
The State Council, China’s Cabinet, has ordered that national flags be flown at half-staff around the country and at Chinese embassies and consulates abroad, and the suspension of all public recreational activities.
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 publicizing news of the outbreak but has since been listed among the national “martyrs.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.