UK falls silent in memory of those who lost their lives on coronavirus front line

28 April 2020, 11:09

By Asher McShane

The nation fell silent today in memory of key workers who have lost their lives caring for others during the Covid-19 crisis.

The minute's silence which took place at 11am today honoured key workers, following a campaign by the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, and the union, Unison.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "This morning I took part in a minute's silence to remember those workers who have tragically died in the coronavirus pandemic. The nation will not forget you."

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak posted a photo of himself observing the silence.

He tweeted: "To the workers who continue to help Britain battle coronavirus, thank you. To those who have lost their lives, we won't forget you."

NHS workers stand in silence remembering colleagues who lost their lives
NHS workers stand in silence remembering colleagues who lost their lives. Picture: NHS England

The campaign has received the support of the Prime Minister who has only just returned to work after being treated in intensive care for coronavirus.

Tributes flooded in from across the country from a "a sombre but grateful nation," according to Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Doctors, nurses, paramedics and healthcare workers paid respects to their colleagues at hospitals and in other care environments.

Transport workers and other emergency services workers also took part, paying tribute to "health, care and other key workers who have lost their lives during the current pandemic."

Transport for London brought the underground and bus network to a halt for the silence as the workforce honoured its colleagues.

Passengers were asked to join in and bus drivers stopped their vehicles at the side of the road just before 11am, switching off their engines for one minute.

Dame Donna said: "This moment will bring together a sombre but grateful nation. Whether in nursing or driving buses, our heroes kept going to work when many had the luxury of staying at home. Nobody should go out to work and risk their life.

"This must not be the last time that sacrifice is recognised. The country and its leaders owes a tremendous debt to these key workers and the many more who are on shift again today."

A flag was flown at half mast at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which will be among many medical sites across the nation where hardworking staff will pause to honour their workmates.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Boris Johnson has seen first-hand how NHS staff are going to remarkable lengths to keep us all safe.

"The least we can all do tomorrow is spare a moment to pay our respects and show our gratitude to all the key workers who have lost their lives."

The Society of Occupational Medicine, whose members include more than 1,700 doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and technicians, has said the goal should be zero work-caused fatalities.

It is calling for the Government to prevent any further work-related deaths and for employers to carry out risk assessments so people can safely return to their jobs whenever the lockdown is eased.

Michaela Willis, of Devon, whose son Daniel died in 1993, has restarted the National Bereavement Partnership helpline, saying she had been "struck by the number of frontline healthcare workers who have been getting in touch to discuss their feelings of severe stress and anxiety".

Ms Willis, who was a key campaigner among the relatives who lost loved ones in the Bristol heart babies scandal, added: "They are dealing with deaths and bereaved families on a daily basis, without having a spare moment to process the toll this takes on their own well-being.

"Fear of catching the virus is also acute, as many have witnessed the deaths of healthcare colleagues."

The helpline, which is also open to UK-based bereaved families who have lost loved ones due to coronavirus, is available on 0800 448 0800 between 7am-10pm every day, as well online and via social media.

A helpline specifically for NHS staff was launched by NHS England earlier this month and is available at 0300 131 7000 between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.

NHS England has said it is considering how to formally commemorate and celebrate the dedication of those who have died while caring for others, and will work with families, loved ones and staff to find "the most respectful and appropriate way to do so".