Germany is holding a national memorial day on Sunday for its nearly 80,000 victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel attended memorial events, just as the country battles a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to media reports, both leaders took part in a morning service at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a memorial in Berlin against war and destruction.
“Sickness, dying, and death cannot be just pushed away in this long year, they have cut deeply into the lives of many people,” said Georg Baetzing, the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, at the service.
Steinmeier called on the audience to remember the people behind the statistics and figures, asking them “to consider the human tragedy of the pandemic.”
The president said it was “understandable” that “we have been obsessing over infection rates and the number of deaths each day.”
But he has the impression “that we, as a society, have not reminded ourselves often enough that individual destinies, human lives, are behind all of these numbers.”
He warned that “a society that ignores this suffering will suffer as a whole.”
Steinmeier also singled out those who died alone or could not say their last goodbyes in person, due to pandemic restrictions in hospitals.
“Dying in the pandemic was and is often a death without succor or a proper farewell. Sometimes even relatives were not allowed to visit their loved ones in hospitals, care homes, or hospices. Many people have died without their relatives and friends being able to say goodbye to them.”
“Some find their loss twice as hard to bear because they were denied the chance to see or touch the dying one last time. The fact that they were not able to bury their relatives as they and, above all, the departed themselves would have liked weighs heavily on others,” Steinmeier added.
He stressed that the day of mourning would remind people that “they are not alone in their suffering, not alone in mourning.”
Sunday’s ceremony comes as health authorities warn that many more will succumb to the virus, as Germany struggles to put down a vicious third wave gripping the country.
Input from DW.com