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Nation falls silent to remember victims of Covid-19
23 March 2021, 12:03 | Updated: 23 March 2021, 19:47
The nation has fallen silent to remember those who have died in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When the first lockdown was announced a year ago today, the country could scarcely imagine what would lie in store for each and everyone one of us.
For over 100,000 families the past 12 months have brought pain and grief that all can sympathise with, but in circumstances no one could imagine before.
In an effort to stem the spread of the virus, those grieving a precious loss have needed to remain apart - at a time when all they wanted to do is hug each other close.
Today, the nation acknowledged their pain.
At midday, streets and homes fell silent in a quiet moment of reflection for the lives lost to Covid-19. At the time of writing the death toll stands at 149,117.
Everyone in the country has been urged to do their bit and remain in their homes, no more than metres away from our neighbours but isolated from anyone outside their household.
Shops closed, children were barred from playgrounds, schools shut and the very heart of community ordered to isolate from one another.
But the losses of Covid have been more than just high street names and personal freedoms.
Major life events; weddings, a grandparents first cuddle with a grandchild, funerals, Christmas and other religious holidays with families, have all been barred from us by this cruel disease.
The minute's silence, observed privately by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was followed by a bell toll.
This evening at 8pm people are being encouraged to stand on their doorsteps with phones, candles and torches to signify a "beacon of remembrance".
More than 250 organisations are supporting the day of reflection, including 82 leaders from religious groups and cross-party politicians, care organisations, charities, businesses, emergency services, public sector bodies and community groups.
The Queen reflected on the "grief and loss felt by so many" in a message accompanying flowers sent to St Bartholomew's Hospital in the City of London, where the Duke of Edinburgh had heart surgery.
The message read: "As we look forward to a brighter future together, today we pause to reflect on the grief and loss that continues to be felt by so many people and families, and pay tribute to the immeasurable service of those who have supported us all over the last year."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his "sincere condolences" to people bereaved during the pandemic.
He said: "Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year - one of the most difficult in our country's history
"We should also remember the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year. We have all played our part, whether it's working on the front line as a nurse or carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to get that jab into arms, home schooling your children, or just by staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus."
According to the latest available data from the Office for National Statistics, there have been 629,623 deaths from all causes registered in England and Wales between March 21 2020 and the week ending March 12 2021.