Memorial Day like no other for Americans under coronavirus restrictions

Americans have marked a Memorial Day like no other as the coronavirus pandemic forced communities to honour the nation’s military dead with smaller, more subdued ceremonies.

On the weekend that marks the unofficial start of summer, US authorities warned beach-goers to heed social distancing rules to avoid a resurgence of the disease.

Covid-19 has infected 5.4 million people worldwide and killed more than 345,000, including nearly 100,000 Americans, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Memorial Day commemorations were cancelled or toned down across the country.

Veterans, along with nursing home residents, have made up a significant portion of those who died in the US outbreak.

The 37,000 American flags traditionally placed on the Boston Common to honour Massachusetts military members who died in service were replaced with just 1,000 flags to limit volunteers and onlookers.

Fallen military members were honoured in New York City with car convoys and small ceremonies this year rather than parades to conform with lockdown restrictions.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in more than two months by laying a wreath at a veterans park near his Delaware home.

He wore a face mask as he and his wife bowed their heads in silence. He saluted and could be heard saying: “Never forget.”

Mr Biden told reporters: “I feel great to be out here.””

He also yelled to a group standing nearby: “Thank you for your service.”

After two days of playing golf, US president Donald Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery.

Presidents typically lay a wreath and deliver a speech at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia but because of the pandemic, which is expected to claim its 100,000th American victim this week, the ceremony looked different this year.

Many attendees arrived wearing masks but removed them for the outdoor ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

He approached a wreath already in place, touching it and giving a salute.

Mr Trump later spoke at Baltimore’s historic Fort McHenry, where he noted tens of thousands of service members and national guard personnel are currently “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus”.

He also said: “Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights.

“No obstacle, no challenge and no threat is a match for the sheer determination of the American people.”

Tens of thousands of Americans still headed to beaches and parks, relieved to shake off some pandemic restrictions.

Dr Deborah Birx, co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together.

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Categories: COVID-19, Memorial Day 2020, Military, News, Pandemic, United States