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Work has started on a stunning 20ft bronze sculpture to immortalise every healthcare worker who has died in the fight against Covid. The £250,000 piece of art, which is as yet untitled, will proudly bear all their names and carry the inscription: “You laid your love for those in life. Your sleep is not in vain.”
The project has support at the very highest level, from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid and new NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard, among others.
Now a diverse group of businesspeople, politicians, sporting heroes and celebrities have given their seal of approval to our project, including Good Morning Britain host Charlotte Hawkins and actress Miriam Margolyes.
Britain has the seventh highest Covid death toll in the world. Figures show at least 1,561 health and social care staff have died in the battle with Covid.
Symbolising eternal life, the sculpture will feature two intertwined trees with hundreds of leaves, each individually hand-sculpted.
The 400kg memorial, which is being made by sculptress Nicola Ravenscroft, will be unveiled in a central London location yet to be decided in 2022.
Similar sculptures will also be unveiled in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As well as being a memorial, the sculpture will be a permanent reminder of the hard work done by doctors, nurses, midwives, carers and others who proudly serve our cherished healthcare system, without fanfare or praise.
Lord Ashcroft, 75, a philanthropist who led the successful campaign for the NHS to be awarded a collective George Cross, said: “I am delighted that selfless NHS staff who gave their lives are being provided with such a splendid memorial.
“The outstanding bravery and devotion to duty of our emergency service workers is being recognised in an appropriate and enduring way.”
Businessman Lord Sugar, 74, said: “This memorial will serve as a permanent and powerful reminder to a grateful nation of the gruelling work the NHS carry out every day.”
West End star Ruthie Henshall, 54, said: “NHS workers have always been heroes, it’s just that the Covid pandemic put it into sharp focus how selfless and dedicated they are.
“They went above and beyond what was asked of them. My deepest respect and gratitude to the people on the front line.
“No pot could be banged loud enough to show my thanks. They would hear it in space.”
Former England cricketer Monty Panesar, 39, said: “The NHS is the jewel in Britain’s crown.
“This beautiful memorial honouring the valiant men and women of the NHS taken from us by Covid will hopefully be a constant reminder lest we forget their sacrifice while also offering solace to the families that lost loved ones.”
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins, 46, said: “What a special way to honour all our NHS Heroes. Day in day out, they put their lives on the line fighting this horrific pandemic.The memorial will stand through time to remember them and honour the sacrifices they made.”
Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes, 80, said: “I’m lost in admiration at the courage and commitment of the NHS heroes. They are the very best of our people. I salute them.”
Dalton Grant, 55, the Commonwealth and European high jump gold medallist and former Team GB athletic captain, said: “I would like to thank the NHS for all the services provided since it was formed in 1948. Long live the NHS.”
He added: “I’d also like to thank everyone who came up with this memorial initiative to honour them.”
Kanya King, founder of the Mobo music awards, said: “To honour frontline heroes who succumbed to Covid is a beautiful idea and hopefully it will be a permanent reminder of the value of our NHS.”
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Lord John Bird, 75, founder of The Big Issue, said: “A monument to remind us of the lives lost and the dedication of the NHS is a worthy gesture. Well done to every nurse, doctor, porter and cleaner who made huge sacrifices.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Mr Javid, 51, said: “I know the memorial will mean so much to the families and friends of those who we’ve lost. I’d like to thank the Daily Express and everyone who’s supported this campaign.
“Thanks to your efforts, the exceptional contribution of the NHS will be immortalised forever, after one of the toughest times this nation has ever faced.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the amazing ongoing work of our NHS and care workers. Every day they work incredibly hard to save lives but tragically many have lost their own lives helping others during the pandemic.
“We must never forget their heroic efforts and just how important our health and care service is for our country, and memorials and sculptures are a fitting way to do this.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 57, said: “I want to thank the Daily Express for championing our fantastic health service which has done so much for all of us during these challenging times.”
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