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Biden to honour COVID-19 victims ahead of inauguration

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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is planning a lighting ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honour those killed by the coronavirus the day before he is sworn into office on Jan. 20.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee said Thursday that it would hold the event the evening of Jan. 19, calling it the “first-ever lighting around the Reflecting Pool to memorialize American lives lost.” It is also inviting communities around the country to join Washington in lighting up buildings and ringing church bells at 5:30 p.m. in “a national moment of unity and remembrance.”

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“In the midst of a pandemic — when so many Americans are grieving the loss of family, friends, and neighbours — it is important that we honour those who have died, reflect on what has been one of the more challenging periods in the nation’s history, and renew our commitment to coming together to end the pandemic and rebuild our nation,” inauguration committee spokesman Pili Tobar said in a statement.

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Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris plan to take their oaths of office outside the U.S. Capitol building, part of inauguration events that aim to capture the traditional grandeur of the historic ceremony while complying with COVID-19 protocols. The virus has killed more than 340,000 people nationwide.

The inauguration committee already announced this week that there would be no traditional inaugural luncheon at the Capitol because of the virus, another political tradition suspended because of the pandemic.