A year to the day since Prime Minister Boris Johnson first put the United Kingdom under lockdown to slow the fast-spreading coronavirus, a national day of reflection has been organised by the end-of-life charity Marie Curie to remember the people who died after contracting COVID-19.
“Whatever our faith or philosophy may be, let us take a moment together to remember those who have been lost, to give thanks for their lives, and to acknowledge the inexpressible pain of parting,” said Prince Charles, who is a patron of Marie Curie.
The UK has registered more than 126,000 virus-related deaths, the highest pandemic death toll in Europe and one of the highest in the world as a proportion of the population.
Britain is set to observe a minute’s silence on Tuesday at noon. Residents are also being encouraged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm with phones, candles and flashlights to signify a “beacon of remembrance”.
London’s skyline will turn yellow when landmarks including the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and Wembley Stadium light up at nightfall. Other notable buildings that will be illuminated include Cardiff Castle and Belfast City Hall. Churches and cathedrals plan to toll bells, light thousands of candles and offer prayers.
“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,” Johnson said. “We should also remember the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year.”
Few foresaw the scale of death and grief to come when Johnson, in a prime-time televised address on March 23, 2020, issued an “instruction” for the British people to stay at home.
Johnson, who within days of issuing the stay-at-home order tested positive for the virus and eventually ended up in intensive care at a London hospital, has faced criticism for delaying the first lockdown. Italy had been the first European country to go into lockdown earlier in March 2020, followed by most of the rest of the continent.
Children have spent many months cooped up at home with their often-agitated parents and siblings also struggling to deal with the realities of life under lockdown.
The pandemic has also battered the British economy, which suffered its deepest recession in more than 300 years. Pubs, restaurants, theatres, hair salons and all stores selling nonessential items such as books and footwear have spent much of the past year closed.