China has held a three-minute reflection to honour those who have died in the coronavirus outbreak.
Activity in all major cities in the country, which has recorded more than 80,000 cases and 3,000 deaths from Covid-19, stopped at 10am local time with commemorations particularly poignant in Wuhan.
The industrial city was where the virus was first detected in December and placed under complete lockdown on January 23 as authorities attempted to halt the spread.
Wuhan has been lauded as a “heroic city” by the nation’s communist leadership for the sacrifices made by 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.
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’s figures, 81,639 cases and 3,326 deaths, are generally considered to be understated because of a lack of testing and a reluctance to report the scale of the original outbreak.
China’s slow, cautious emergence from the global pandemic comes as the US is struggling to deal with the outbreak that has taken more than 1,860 lives in New York City alone.
Italy, Spain and France are also seeing rising numbers of cases and deaths, although strict social distancing measures such as those adopted by China appear to be having an effect.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, ordered that national flags be flown at half-mast around the country and at Chinese embassies and consulates abroad, and the suspension of all public recreational activities.
The horns of cars, trains and ships joined in what the official Xinhua News Agency called a “wail in grief” for three minutes.
China has held such moments of silence in past, often to mark Second World War-era atrocities by Japan, but rarely on a national scale.
The commemoration also comes two days before the traditional Qingming festival, when Chinese visit the graves of their ancestors.
Officials have banned such observances this year to avoid large gatherings that might contribute to a feared second wave of infections.