COVID-19: Day of reflection to remember coronavirus victims after ‘incredibly difficult year for our country’
The prime minister has backed a national day of reflection to mark the anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown.
The end-of-life charity Marie Curie is planning the day for 23 March to remember those who have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
This was the date in 2020 when Boris Johnson first told UK residents they must stay at home in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.
More than 125,000 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, and many thousands of people have been left with long-term effects from the disease.
Many businesses have also gone bankrupt, workers have lost their jobs, and households have been plunged into poverty.
The day of reflection will include a minute’s silence at midday, followed by a bell toll. People will be encouraged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm with phones, candles and torches to signify a "beacon of remembrance".
Prominent buildings will also be lit up across the UK and there will be various remembrance activities run locally, such as yellow ribbons being wrapped around trees.
The idea has received the support of more than 100 organisations, charities, businesses, emergency services, public sector bodies and community groups.
Mr Johnson said he will observe the minute’s silence at noon privately, adding: "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."
Head of the NHS Sir Simon Stevens also backed the idea, saying: "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.
"While we need continuing vigilance against this virus, the remarkable NHS vaccination programme now brings hope of better times to come."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford also support the day of reflection.
Marie Curie chief executive Matthew Reed said: "The last year has been one of the most traumatic and uniting in modern history. With so many of us losing someone close, our shared sense of loss is incomparable to anything felt by this generation.
"Many of us have been unable to say a real goodbye or comfort our family, friends and colleagues in their grief. We need to acknowledge that and recognise we are not alone."