UK pays tribute to key workers who have died of coronavirus with minute's silence


The UK’s political leaders led the minute of silence to commemorate the key workers who have died with coronavirus.

Boris Johnson, who is the first world leader to have caught the virus and spent time in hospital, was among those observing the minute’s silence on Tuesday at 11am.

The NHS staff and members of the public, hospitals, homes, places still working during the lockdown, paused to mark the sombre occasion, remembering the thousands of people to have died so far during the outbreak.

Mr Johnson, who returned to work on Monday stood in silence from his place at the cabinet table, with chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill standing on either side. The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer also stood at his desk in the opposition leader’s office.

Scotland’s first secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, stood outside St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh. In Wales, the first minister, Mark Drakeford, and the health minister, Vaughan Gething, marked the silence at the Welsh government headquarters in Cardiff.

More than 100 NHS and care staff have died with the virus, as have many transport and other key workers.

Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, 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.

Dame Kinnair said that it was important to pay tribute publicly to those who have lost their lives to the virus, and was 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.

Meanwhile, the son of a doctor who died has called on the government to issue a public apology for issues with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Intisar Chowdhury, 18, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he wanted ministers "to accept their mistakes and let their mistakes become improvement rather than just ignore them and completely move on".

Intisar's father, Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, 53, who died earlier this month, had warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson about a lack of PPE five days before being hospitalised.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was also asked by Mr Chowdhury to apologise on LBC, and said "listening to the voices on the front line is a very, very important part of how we improve".

Chief nursing officer for England Ruth May said: “Every death is a tragedy but we feel the loss of fellow health and care workers particularly keenly.

“I want people across the NHS and the whole country to come together and remember health and care workers who have lost their lives to this cruel virus.”

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.

Elsewhere, a flag was flown at half mast at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which was among many medical venues around the country where staff paid tribute to colleagues.

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”.

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