Swiss church bells mark year since first COVID-19 death

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Swiss church bells rang out at noon on Friday and people observed a minute of silence to mark a year since the country's first death from COVID-19.

President Guy Parmelin announced the measure on public television last Sunday, urging citizens to honour the more than 9,300 people who have died from the disease in Switzerland.

At the Notre-Dame cathedral in Lausanne, a French-language Swiss city in the western part of the country, watchman Renato Hausler rang the 16th-century 'La Clemence' bell.

In April, as the pandemic set in, Hausler told Reuters he had resumed the practice of climbing the 153 stone steps to its tower to ring the bell at night, to stir residents' solidarity and courage.

On Friday Hausler said he was ringing the bell to pay tribute and to remind people to keep strong.

"It’s a call for bravery, but it’s especially a call for patience and perseverance, that’s for sure. Because it is not going to end like this, as easily as we would have like or thought," he said, standing in front of Lausanne's gothic cathedral which overlooks the city.

Enjoying the view was Lausanne resident and pharmacist Simon Reboh, who was also in a pensive mood.

"It is nice to be able to stop and to think about what is happening. We are grabbed by our daily lives, we don't have the time to think," he said.

"That’s why I’m here, in front of a view that allows me to slow down."

(Reporting by Cecile Mantovani and Denis Balibouse in Lausanne; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Raissa Kasolowsky)