Covid-19 heroes and NHS key workers dominate Queen's Birthday Honours

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

Unsung heroes who have helped tremendously during the Covid-19 pandemic have dominated the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year.

Famous faces such as Marcus Rashford and Joe Wicks to hundreds of key workers have helped with Britain’s fight against coronavirus.

This year's list was postponed from June in order to include people, such as medical workers, fundraisers and volunteers, who have been instrumental in the Covid-19 effort.

It celebrates the selfless good deeds of big names as well as ordinary people during the pandemic, which saw delivery drivers drop off food and medicine to vulnerable people and health and care workers put themselves at risk to help their communities and beyond.

Among them is footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been made an MBE after his heroic efforts in ensuring children in need received meals across the summer during the pandemic.

His campaign forced the Government to make a U-turn over its free school meals provision and now he is being honoured for services to vulnerable children in the UK during Covid-19.

He said: "As a young black man from Wythenshawe, never did I think I would be accepting an MBE, never mind an MBE at the age of 22."

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

Mr Rashford added: "This is a very special moment for myself and my family, but particularly my mum who is the real deserving recipient of the honour."

"The fight to protect our most vulnerable children is far from over," he added.

Body coach Mr Wicks is also being made an MBE for helping children keep active and mentally fit during lockdown with his online PE lessons.

Two children taking part in a Joe Wicks class online Credit: PA

Mr Wicks said: "My childhood and how I grew up, if you met me as a little boy you’d have thought 'He’s not going to go anywhere, he’s not going to do anything great'.

"But I’ve turned it around and I really am proud I’ve become this person who’s helping people."

Hot on the heels of Mr Wicks is Derrick Evans, more commonly known as Mr Motivator, who has been made an MBE after creating online home exercises during lockdown and hosting a week-long workout with Linda Lusardi to raise money for Age UK’s Emergency Coronavirus Appeal.

Clockwise: Lifeboat crew, Joe Wicks, Nurse, Pirate, King, Barrel, Joe Exotic, Lockdown girl, Oriental couple, Lert. Credit: Visit Beer

The television star said he initially thought he was being "scammed" when told of the honour, adding that it was "wonderful to be acknowledged in this way".

He said: "If only my parents were really here with me now, they would be so chuffed, but I think in spirit they are actually hovering up there and they are saying ‘Boy, you done good’."

Joining the list of celebrities who have helped with Covid-19 efforts is rapper Lady Leshurr, who is being awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) after releasing a coronavirus-related song this year reminding people to wash their hands.

Lady Leshurr with her best female act award at the MOBO awards. Credit: PA

She said: "I can’t believe that the Queen of England has noticed and commended the Queen of Grime.

"I’ve always held my integrity and it just proves, you know, if you believe in yourself and your craft, and you just work and build, you will be commended and you will be rewarded for your success and what you bring to the universe."

In total, 1,495 honours make up this year’s list, with health and social care workers making up 14% while 13% of recipients are from a minority ethnic background, making it the most diverse list after 12% in the New Year Honours last year.

Key workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities are recognised for their selfless efforts in the fight against Covid-19, including Felicia Kwaku, 52, associate director of nursing at Kings College NHS Foundation Trust, who is honoured for her services to nursing.

The nurse of 30 years, from Islington, north London, supported BAME nurses by delivering webinars during the pandemic and raised issues surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly for Filipino nurses.

Miss Kwaku, who is made an OBE, said it is “timely and appropriate” that BAME people are being recognised for their efforts during Black History Month, adding: “You can’t ignore the fact people have laid down their lives during this pandemic. It is only right, proper and fitting to honour them and honour those who continue to serve.”

Of those who have been honoured, 72% have worked tirelessly for their local community, reflecting the huge voluntary effort across the country in response to Covid-19.

This includes 100-year-old Dabirul Islam Choudhury, who is made an OBE after he raised £420,000 for Covid-19 relief while fasting during Ramadan.

Dobirul Chowdhray began walking laps of his garden for Ramadan. Credit: ITV News

He walked 970 laps of his garden in Bow, east London, after being inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore, the Second World War veteran who raised £33 million after walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in April.

Mr Choudhury said: "I feel proud they have honoured me for the efforts I have done.

"I thank everybody from the bottom of my heart."

Other everyday heroes include Ali Ghorbangholi, 29, and Professor Mark Wilson, 46, co-founders of the GoodSAM app which has helped mobilise hundreds of thousands of volunteers in support of vulnerable shielded people during lockdown.

Professor Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, is knighted for services to medical research, and Emma Walmsley, chief executive of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), becomes a dame.

Ms Walmsley said: “I’m humbled to receive this honour. It is a real testament to the many outstanding people we have at GSK and the work we do for patients and people here in the UK and around the world.”

Meanwhile, Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, who leads the Covid Symptom Study (CSS) app, is made an OBE.

The Cabinet Office said this year’s list is the first to have 11% of recipients under 30, with Theodore Wride being the youngest person at 16. He is awarded the BEM for service to his community in Sunderland during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "This year’s honours recipients are a testament to the sort of country we are – caring, compassionate and resolute in the face of a global pandemic. The hard work and dedication of these local, often unsung heroes has helped carry us through. I congratulate them all."