Covid: Nation falls silent to remember Covid-19 victims as PM praises 'great spirit shown' on lockdown anniversary

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

People across the UK fell silent in remembrance of the 126,000-plus Covid-19 victims on the anniversary of the first lockdown.

MPs and peers in both Houses of Parliament and ministers in the devolved nations marked the solemn anniversary at midday, while NHS and social care workers also joined the pause for reflection.

The Queen sent flowers to the medics at St Bartholomew’s Hospital who treated Prince Philip with a message praising the “immeasurable service of those who have supported us over the last year”.

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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.”

Cathedrals in Blackburn, Winchester, Gloucester and York Minster also fell silent in honour of those who have died during the pandemic.

The London Eye, Tate Britain, Blackpool Tower, the Scottish Parliament, Belfast City Hall and other buildings will be lit in yellow on Tuesday evening to mark the occasion.

Flowers from Queen Elizabeth II to staff at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Credit: PA

MPs paused proceedings in the House of Commons to observe the minute’s silence, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle telling the chamber: “Every single one of us has been affected."

The public is also being urged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm with a candle or light.

The Prime Minister, who has offered his “sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones”, observed the minute’s silence privately.

A No.10 spokesman said: “The PM began Cabinet by reflecting on what he said had been a very dark and difficult year for our country.

Staff observe a minute's silence outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. Credit: PA

“The PM said that we mourn all those we have lost and send our deepest sympathies to their families, friends and loved ones.

“The PM said the last year had also shown the great strengths of the British public, which had demonstrated such resilience and fortitude, and had shown such willingness to work together for a common good.”

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet also were said to have paid tribute to the “extraordinary service” of NHS and social care workers, as well as those in the public sector.

He also praised the “absolutely astonishing achievement” of British scientists and businesses in developing a vaccine and delivering it to half the adult population within a year.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge speak to staff during a visit to the vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge observed a private moment of reflection in Westminster Abbey where they were visiting its vaccination centre and to thank staff and volunteers.

Joined by the Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, the royal couple stood in silence before the Dean delivered a series of short prayers.

William then lit a candle in remembrance at the altar of the Shrine, and Kate placed fresh daffodils next to the candle.

The Shrine is where William and Kate privately signed their marriage register during their wedding ceremony – the 10th anniversary of which is next month.

The UK falls silent to pay tributes to victims of Covid-19 on a national day of reflection

Earlier, Downing Street said Mr Johnson had reflected with Cabinet ministers on Tuesday morning on what had been “a very dark and difficult year” for the nation.

Mr Johnson has described the past year as "one of the most difficult in our country’s history" and praised the “great spirit” displayed.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon observes a minute's silence in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson said: “The last 12 months has taken a huge toll on us all, and I offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

“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.

“It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all.”

Chief Spiritual Adviser Mia Hilborn at St Thomas' Hospital places flowers near the statue of Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole. Credit: PA

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.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was among those who joined the minute’s silence to remember those who have lost their lives.

He tweeted: “At midday, our country came together to remember all those who have lost their lives since the pandemic began.

“Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones. And we thank our heroic NHS staff who have worked so hard and cared for us all.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves join paramedics at Deptford Ambulance station, south-east London Credit: PA

Amid the reflections, Professor Chris Whitty warned another surge in coronavirus cases was inevitable.

England’s chief medical officer said there would be “bumps and twists on the road”, possibly including the emergence of new variants and shortages in vaccine supplies.A total of 149,117 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said Tuesday.

The most number of deaths to occur on a single day was 1,465 on January 19.

MPs observe a minute's silence in House of Commons. Credit: PA

During the first wave of the virus, the daily death toll peaked at 1,459 deaths on April 8.

After taking part in the minute’s silence privately, Mr Johnson is expected to address the 1922 Committee on Tuesday evening before he asks MPs to extend coronavirus restrictions for six months.

Ministers say the extension would ensure furlough can continue to apply even after all measures have possibly been scrapped.

But critics, including former chief whip Mark Harper, have warned the continuation of restrictions until June 21 at the earliest under the road map is draconian because the success of the vaccination programme means they are not needed.