Boris Johnson pledges support for National Day of Reflection to remember Covid victims

GMB: Piers and Susanna pay tribute to coronavirus victims

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The Prime Minster will take part in the minute’s silence on March 23, the anniversary of the start of the first lockdown. Led by the Marie Curie charity and backed by the Daily Express, the day will see the country come together to support people who have lost loved ones in the past 12 months. As a further 175 deaths and 6,609 new cases were reported in the UK yesterday, Mr Johnson said: “This has been an incredibly difficult year for our country.

“My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones, and who have not been able to pay tribute to them in the way they would have wanted.

“As we continue to make progress against the virus, I want to thank people for the sacrifices they continue to make, and hope they can look forward to being reunited with loved ones as restrictions are cautiously eased.”

Other political leaders and the head of the NHS also welcomed the plans for the day.

A minute’s silence will be held at noon followed by a tolling of church bells.

At 8pm, people will be invited to stand on their doorsteps and shine a light as a show of remembrance.

Buildings and landmarks will be illuminated, creating beacons of light as a tribute.

Marie Curie is also asking people to reach out to friends and relatives who are grieving by sending flowers or a greeting card, or picking up the phone. Sir Simon Stevens, the NHS chief executive, said: “Coming out of the toughest year in the health service’s entire history, we need to reflect on the pandemic’s deep toll, mourn those we’ve lost, and mark the service and sacrifice of staff throughout the NHS.

“It’s also a moment to acknowledge how in adversity we saw strength, as friends, neighbours and communities have come together to help each other through the nation’s worst ordeal since the Second World War.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The National Day of Reflection is a moment to remember the people lost to coronavirus over the past year. We must never forget what that number represents – mothers, fathers, grandparents and partners.

“Behind every death are bereaved families and friends, many of whom have been unable to grieve normally.  

“Despite the terrible impact of this pandemic, the past year has also brought communities closer together. Moments like this can send a powerful message that, as a society, we are there for each other. 

“We must ensure this spirit of national solidarity lives on, as a tribute to those we have lost.” 

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, are also on board.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The past 12 months have been unimaginably tough for everybody, and it is right we pause to remember those we have lost, and offer our continued thoughts, solidarity and support to the bereaved.”

More than 30 celebrities and 110 organisations have already backed the day, including the British Red Cross, Girlguiding and the Royal Voluntary Service.

Marie Curie will host a series of online talks with stars including author Michael Morpurgo, actor Jim Carter and broadcaster Janet Ellis. The charity’s chief executive Matthew Reed said: “We ­welcome the news that political leaders are signalling their support for a National Day of Reflection on March 23.

“It is important that we all come together to reflect on our collective loss, celebrate the lives of the special people no longer here, support those who have been bereaved and look towards a much brighter future.”

Campaigners hope the day will become an annual event.

Meanwhile, Sir Simon and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty will today pay tribute to more than one million volunteers who have taken part in coronavirus research in the UK. Participants have joined more than 180 studies, the National Institute for Health Research said.

They have aided scientists in the discovery of crucial new Covid-19 treatments such as dexamethasone and tocilizumab, gathered the data that were needed to approve the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and more.

Prof Whitty said: “Reaching one million participants in Covid-19 research shows the impressive selflessness of people across the UK who have volunteered to take part.

“This research has led to vaccines, better treatments and improved care. A huge thank you to everyone who has taken part.”

Sir Simon added: “They have made unique and decisive contributions.”

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