June 17, 2020 / 10:45 AM / 19 days ago

Spanish king to lead July 16 ceremony for COVID-19 victims

FILE PHOTO: Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia attend a military parade after a ceremony to inaugurate the XIV Legislature at Parliament in Madrid, Spain February 3, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - King Felipe of Spain will lead a ceremony, attended by top EU officials, on July 16 to honour the 27,000 victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and health workers, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday.

Spain is emerging from a three-month lockdown after suffering one the world’s heaviest death tolls from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Sanchez told parliament the state ceremony would honour “the 27,000 compatriots who lost their lives,” as well as civil servants who had been on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Council Charles Michel, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell and also the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will attend, he said.

He did not specify where the ceremony would be held.

At the height of the pandemic in late March and early April, when almost 1,000 people were dying of the disease each day, hospitals were overwhelmed.

Last month, Spanish authorities ordered 10 days of official mourning, when flags flew at half-mast from the country’s public buildings and navy ships and legislators, ministers and King Felipe held minutes of silence.

Reporting by Inti Landauro; editing by Andrei Khalip and Barbara Lewis

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