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PHOTOS: UK falls silent in honour of COVID-19 warriors

By Aditi Khanna
April 28, 2020 17:54 IST
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The United Kingdom came together on Tuesday for a minute's silence in the honour of hundreds of healthcare and other workers who have lost their lives on the frontline of the coronavirus fightback across the country.

 

IMAGE: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak stand to observe a minute of silence in a tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who died during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at 10 Downing Street, London, on Tuesday. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/pool via Reuters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who just recovered from a severe coronavirus attack, led the tributes with UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street for the National Health Service (NHS) and other key workers across care homes and public transport at 11 am local time.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, also paid his respects.

So far 82 NHS staff are known to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, including many with their roots in India.

IMAGE: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon observes a minute of silence outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh. Photograph: Jane Barlow/pool via Reuters

The Indian-origin Chief People Officer at the NHS, Prerana Issar, said that the NHS England is considering how to formally commemorate all those who have died while working to care for others once the state-funded health service is through the peak of the virus.

"The NHS family will come together to pay tribute to all those across the health and care sector who have lost their lives to coronavirus," said Issar.

IMAGE: NHS staff observes a minute's silence at NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

"Everyone of them, whatever job they were doing, were making a difference and helping others. That's why we will be joining this nationwide moment to remember those we have lost, and honouring all that they did for us," she said.

The tribute comes as the government announced a new time-bound insurance scheme for the families of such public sector healthcare workers who lost their lives while on duty during the pandemic, with a 60,000 pounds Life Assurance Scheme.

IMAGE: NHS staff observes silence at Mater Infirmorum Hospital, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

"Financial worries should be the last thing on the minds of their families so in recognition of these unprecedented circumstances we are expanding financial protection to the NHS and social care workers delivering publicly funded care on the frontline," said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

"Nothing can make up for the tragic loss of a loved one during this pandemic. We owe a huge debt to those who die in service to our nation and are doing everything we can to protect them.

IMAGE: People observe a minute's silence at Mater Infirmorum Hospital, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/ Reuters

"We will continue to strive night and day to provide them with the support and protection they need and deserve to keep them safe as they work tirelessly to save lives," he said.

He said that bereaved family members will receive a 60,000 pounds lump sum, worth roughly twice the average pensionable pay for the NHS staff, with the cost met by the government.

IMAGE: People applaud after a minute's silence at Mater Infirmorum Hospital, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

This will cover full, part-time or locum NHS and public health workers, including general practitioners (GPs), dentists, retired staff and second and final year students taking up paid frontline roles.

While the details of the scheme are yet to be finalised, it is expected that overseas doctors from countries such as India should also be eligible for this compensation covering their families who may be based in the countries of their origin.

IMAGE: Police officers observe a minute's silence at Guy's Hospital in London. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

The scheme is aimed at those who die from coronavirus during the course of their essential and lifesaving work. This includes those providing direct care as well as cleaners and porters who continue to carry out vital duties in these care environments.

The British Medical Association (BMA), the doctors' union lobbying for such a 'death in service' protection, welcomed the new scheme but called for more details to ensure it goes far enough.

IMAGE: Construction workers observe a minute's silence at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. Photograph: Kevin Coombs/Reuters

"Whilst this single payment may seem a sizeable sum, it comes nowhere near compensating families for the lifetime income their loved one may have earned if they hadn't died prematurely, fighting this crisis on the frontline. This is particularly true for young or recently qualified staff," said Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA Pensions Committee Chair.

"Increasing numbers of families are dealing with the loss of a loved one as the death toll for frontline workers rises, they should not also face a future without financial security. The BMA will be examining closely the detail of the government's Life Assurance Scheme," he added.

The coronavirus cases in the UK has reached 158,348 while 21,092 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University tracker.

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Aditi Khanna in London
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