Powerful coalition of doctors, nurses, carers, teachers, local councils and politicians calls for a formal Covid Memorial Day every 23 March.
Proposals include a minute’s silence in all public buildings and a new monument on Whitehall where wreaths can be laid.
Letter to PM from over 50 MPs and peers says we must remember lives lost and changed by the pandemic, recognise efforts of key workers and ensure better pandemic preparedness in future.
A new cross-party campaign has been launched to officially commemorate the lives lost and changed during the Covid-19 pandemic and recognise the efforts of frontline and key workers.
The campaign, backed by a broad coalition of groups representing doctors, nurses, carers, teachers and local councils, is urging the government to formally recognise each 23 March as ‘Covid Memorial Day’ from 2022 onwards. It calls for a minute’s silence to be held at noon in schools, workplaces and all public venues across the UK, and for a new Covid Memorial Monument on Whitehall where wreaths can be laid every year. The plans for memorialisation would be led by local communities, council authorities and devolved nations to “remember the lives lost and lives changed with dignity, and commemorate the efforts of our frontline and key workers with pride.”
A public consultation will be launched on the design of the monument on Whitehall with artists, sculptors and architects as well as members of the public invited to submit designs and ideas for the new structure. Campaigners want the day and monument to serve as a timeless reminder to future generations and to ensure better pandemic preparedness in future.
The campaign is being coordinated by March for Change and is supported by the Local Government Association, the charity Community Integrate Care, the British Medical Association of doctors, the Royal College of Nursing, the teacher’s union NASUWT and GMB Union, which boasts over half a million members.
The plans are also being backed by the influential All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus. In a letter to the Prime Minister, over 50 MPs and peers from eight different parties and all four nations of the UK have supported calls for a Covid Memorial Day to commemorate the victims of the pandemic and their families. The letter says this would be an opportunity to formalise “gratitude and recognition” to key workers who have worked tirelessly throughout the crisis and ensure that “pandemic preparedness will never again be an afterthought.”
Signatories include General Lord Dannatt, who was the head of the British Army until 2009, Conservative MP Dan Poulter, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
“A Covid Memorial Day will bring communities across the UK together to mourn the lives lost and lives changed by this pandemic and ensure they are never forgotten.
“This is also a chance to show our recognition and gratitude to the heroes on the frontline who have kept our NHS, schools and other vital services running.
“We owe it to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice to remember them with dignity, learn the lessons of this crisis and ensure the country is better prepared when the next pandemic strikes.”
Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair of the British Medical Association said:
“For many of us working in the NHS, there has been nothing in living memory that has had such a profound and devastating impact on our nation and health service as the coronavirus pandemic – a pandemic that will undoubtedly shape our future for years to come.
“The Covid Memorial Day should serve as an important reminder for the many who sadly lost their lives throughout this pandemic and for their loved ones who bear this loss. It is also a day to acknowledge the remarkable efforts of all the health and care staff, key workers and those who have and continue to work tirelessly, often putting their own health at risk to come to the aid of others and save lives.
“Crucially, this day should be marked in history to ensure that we never take for granted our health service and are constantly progressing and learning lessons that will serve us well in the future.”
Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:
“This past year has seen so much heartbreak, loss and sacrifice among our families, friends, neighbours and communities. It is right that we use this annual moment to reflect upon the terrible impact of the pandemic and the many lives taken from us too soon.
“Council staff continue to lead local efforts to support residents and businesses through the coronavirus crisis, working day and night to protect communities and keep the services they rely on running.
“As we look towards our recovery and the prospect of a return to a more normal way of life, we must not forget the memory of those who are no longer with us.
“Councils support the campaign for an annual day of remembrance and permanent memorial to all of those who we have lost to the pandemic.”
Mark Adams, Chief Executive Officer at Community Integrated Care says:
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the entire social care sector has faced the most challenging circumstances, and yet our teams have continually gone above and beyond for the people we support.
“An annual Covid Memorial Day would not only serve as a formal occasion to remember those we have sadly lost, but to also give an opportunity to recognise the bravery and sacrifice of those on the frontline. Their heroic efforts should not be forgotten and we all need to continue to demand real change for social care”.
Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT teacher’s trade union said:
“The introduction of an annual Covid Memorial Day would not only provide an opportunity to formally remember those who have lost their lives to the pandemic, but also to act as a focal point in the drive to ensure that we learn the lessons of Covid-19.
“The pandemic has served to highlight the extent to which we need greater investment in the public services and public service workers on whom we have relied during the crisis and on the need for concerted action to tackle the inequalities and injustices which has left the poorest and most marginalised at greatest exposure and risk from the impact of Covid.
“We cannot simply consign the sufferings of the past year to history. We need to remember them and we need to demand change.”
Rehana Azam, National Secretary for Public Services, GMB Union said:
“Our key workers have carried us through this crisis. NHS and social care workers, schools staff, local government, energy, water, refuse, supermarket workers, delivery drivers and so many more have gone above and beyond.
“Too many lives have been lost along the way. We must never forget that sacrifice. Our leaders must learn the lessons that led us here so we will never again be left unprepared, unprotected and unsafe.
“As we look back on the 12 months since lockdown began, we ask the government to mark the occasion with real recognition - reward our key workers by giving them job security, by making it easier to pay their bills, spend time with their families, and by pledging to make the effects of Covid a recognised industrial disease so that each and every worker who put themselves at risk is looked after as the long-lasting impacts of the virus become known in the years to come.”
March for Change Director Tom Brufatto said:
“As Secretariat to the APPG Coronavirus, we have seen and heard first-hand the devastation this pandemic has wrought on so many British citizens, from frontline workers to long Covid sufferers and bereaved families.
“Lives have been lost, and lives have been changed forever. Victims and heroes need more than a gesture like clapping, they deserve a proper memorial that could help save future generations from the same fate.”
Press info: Paul Haydon, [email protected]
Organisations backing the initiative include:
British Medical Association (BMA)
Royal College of Nursing (RCN)
Community Integrated Care (CIC)
Local Government Association (LGA)
National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
The full letter to the prime minister reads:
“Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus to support calls for a Covid Memorial Day to be held on March 23rd 2022, and every year thereafter.
The UK needs a permanent commemoration of the lives lost and the lives changed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK. The purpose of this Memorial Day will not only be limited to remembering the victims of the pandemic and their families, but include those who have experienced the long-term consequences of Covid-19 such as long Covid.
The day should also be an opportunity to formalise our gratitude and recognition to those who, over the last the last year, have worked tirelessly to see the UK through the pandemic - whether by battling the virus on the medical frontline, keeping our public services running or pioneering the research and development of Covid-19 vaccines. Their efforts must not be forgotten.
We must remember how communities from every corner of the UK came together to support one another under the most difficult of circumstances. This Covid Memorial Day should be a truly UK-wide initiative, led by the devolved nations, local councils and communities alike to mark the day in a way that best reflects their respective efforts and sacrifices.
We know that the Coronavirus pandemic is not the first, nor will it be the last of its kind. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that the day serves as a timeless reminder to future generations and leaders that lessons must be learned from our experience and that pandemic preparedness will never again be an afterthought.
As a minimum, the Covid Memorial Day should include:
Recognition of each anniversary of the first UK lockdown, starting on 23 March 2022, as Covid Memorial Day
A minute’s silence to be held at noon in schools, workplaces, and all public venues across the country
Plans for memorialisation to be led by local communities, council authorities and devolved nations, including a new Covid Memorial Monument on Whitehall, where wreaths can be laid
We must remember the lives lost and lives changed with dignity, and commemorate the efforts of our frontline and key workers with pride.”