Coronavirus UK: Boris Johnson leads minute’s silence for key workers


Key workers who have lost their lives in the coronavirus pandemic were remembered today in a UK-wide silence.

People across Britain paused for a minute at 11am in sombre tribute to the sacrifice made by those on the front line, in roles ranging from doctors and nurses to carers, cleaners, porters and bus drivers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has just returned to work after recovering from Covid-19, joined the silence, which the Unison union, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal of College of Nursing had campaigned for.

(From left) Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak also takes part in the minute’s silence at 10 Downing Street in Westminster at 11am today

Staff become emotional outside Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester today during the minute's silence held across Britain

Staff become emotional outside Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester today during the minute’s silence held across Britain

Staff stand inside Camberwell bus depot in South London today during a minute's silence to pay tribute to key workers

Staff stand inside Camberwell bus depot in South London today during a minute’s silence to pay tribute to key workers

National Shop Stewards Network protesters outside St Thomas' Hospital in Londo, during a minute's silence which was to pay tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 28, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus Silence. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

National Shop Stewards Network protesters outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London during a minute’s silence this morning

People queue outside Costco in Thurrock, Essex, this morning during a minute's silence paying tribute to key workers

People queue outside Costco in Thurrock, Essex, this morning during a minute’s silence paying tribute to key workers

Staff stand outside Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester during a minute's silence to pay tribute to dead NHS staff today

Staff stand outside Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester during a minute’s silence to pay tribute to dead NHS staff today

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stands outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh to observe a minute's silence this morning

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stands outside St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh to observe a minute’s silence this morning

Staff stand outside the Royal Derby Hospital in the rain this morning as they take part in the nationwide minute’s silence

NHS staff stand outside the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire this morning to take part in the minute's silence

NHS staff stand outside the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire this morning to take part in the minute’s silence

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the RCN, said: ‘I am heartened to hear how many people took part in the minute’s silence to honour the memory of staff who have tragically died during the pandemic.

‘We thought it was important to pay tribute publicly to those who have lost their lives to the virus, and I am proud that so many took the time to do so this morning.’

She issued an urgent call for protection of workers, saying the death toll must not be allowed to rise further.

‘An even greater task now remains – to stop more joining the tragic number of those who have died. All key workers, healthcare staff among them, must be afforded the greatest protection.’

Staff at various healthcare sites planned to gather safely where they could to remember colleagues. The deaths of more than 90 frontline NHS workers have been confirmed since March 25.

Nurses and other staff stand outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, for the silence this morning

Nurses and other staff stand outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, for the silence this morning

The miunute's silence was also observed by members of the emergency services at Glasgow Airport this morning

The miunute’s silence was also observed by members of the emergency services at Glasgow Airport this morning

Recently-elected Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer observes the minute's silence in Westminster at 11am this morning

Recently-elected Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer observes the minute’s silence in Westminster at 11am this morning

A police officer observes the silence today at Guy's Hospital in London in honour of key workers who have lost their lives

A police officer observes the silence today at Guy’s Hospital in London in honour of key workers who have lost their lives

An empty Parliament Square in London today during a minute's silence paying tribute to the NHS staff and key workers

An empty Parliament Square in London today during a minute’s silence paying tribute to the NHS staff and key workers

A police officer stands in the rain outside 10 Downing Street in London today as the minute's silence takes place

A police officer stands in the rain outside 10 Downing Street in London today as the minute’s silence takes place

Carers and bus drivers are also among those who have died while carrying out their vital work during the pandemic. In a snapshot of how the silence was being marked across the UK:

  • Flags were due to be flown at half-mast from Chorley and Royal Preston Hospitals.
  • Underground and bus networks in London were to be brought to a halt for the silence as the workforce honoured its colleagues.
  • In Northern Ireland, staff in the emergency department of the Ulster Hospital planned to form a guard of honour in the corridor ‘to show solidarity with our colleagues’. Senior nurse Roisin Devlin said: ‘In healthcare, teamwork is so important and, when you lose a member of that team, it is like losing a family member.’
  • In Scotland, a short ceremony was due to be held at Holyrood ahead of the silence, led by Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, with a representative from each of the five parties also present, and in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was planning to mark the event at St Andrew’s House, joined by the health secretary, chief medical officer and chief nursing officer.
  • In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford and Health Minister Vaughan Gething were expected to mark the silence at the Welsh Government headquarters in Cardiff.

Today’s silence – held on International Workers’ Memorial Day – was in stark contrast to the enthusiastic, loud clapping which has become a weekly focal point across the UK.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) chief executive and registrar, said: ‘Our tribute in silence today is as important as the noisy cheering for the NHS, social care and key workers on a Thursday evening.’

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.

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