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National Day of Reflection needed to remember those who died with Covid, campaigners say

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It is exactly one year today since the country’s first coronavirus death was reported. The Daily Express is joining forces with the charity Marie Curie to campaign for all the pandemic’s victims to be remembered on March 23, one year from the start of the first nationwide lockdown. We are encouraging people to come together to reflect on the year – and to show solidarity with people who have lost loved ones.

Plans for the day include a minute’s silence at noon, followed by a tolling of church bells.

Supporters will be asked to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm and shine a light with phones, torches or a candle in a national beacon of remembrance.

Celebrities, MPs and more than 70 organisations have already given their backing to the project.

The comedian and author Stephen Fry said: “An opportunity to come together and reflect, remember and grieve for those touched by the pandemic spreads a feeling of warmth that we badly need right now.”

While the TV presenter Paul O’Grady said: “Families saw loved ones get into an ambulance and, for many, that was the last time they saw them.

“There’s been no real closure for people, they’ve just been left dazed.

A day like this would help ease the pain.” Other celebrity supporters of the call include actors Dame Judi Dench and Jason Isaacs, TV hosts Piers Morgan and Janet Ellis, plus comedian Paul Chuckle.

The first person to have died in the UK with coronavirus is thought to have been a woman in her 70s.

Marie Curie said that in the last 12 months more than 670,000 people have died in the UK, including 140,000 cases where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

That toll is higher than the total of 124,000 who have died within 28 days of a positive virus test. The charity said that many relatives bereaved during the pandemic have been prevented from grieving as they wished. This is due to disruption caused by lockdowns, including restrictions on funerals.

It is encouraging people to reach out on March 23 to someone who is grieving by having a chat or by sending a card, message or flowers.

Other ideas for getting involved include sharing reflections on social media, planting flowers to symbolise hope or joining an online event.

Organisations taking part include the Church of England, the Royal

College of Nursing, London Fire Brigade, the Royal College of GPs and 26 police forces.

Matthew Reed, Marie Curie chief executive, said the day would help people reflect on the past year while also looking ahead to a brighter future.

He added: “We need to take a moment to mark the huge amount of loss we’ve seen in the past 12 months and to show support for everyone who has been bereaved – be that from Covid or any other cause.

“Many people are in shock, confused, upset, angry and unable to process what has happened.

“But there is an overwhelming need to come together, to remember, to grieve, to celebrate.

“The incredible response we’ve had from individuals, organisations, businesses, schools and groups taking part in the day is testament to this. On March 23, we invite everyone to join together to hold a minute’s silence at noon, take a moment to reach out to someone they know is grieving and shine a light at 8pm.”

Almost 30 MPs have so far pledged their support.

David Davis, Tory MP for Haltemprice and Howden, told the Daily Express last night: “After the most painful year in our recent history, Marie Curie is right to call for a day of reflection in which we turn our thoughts to all the individual tragedies we have suffered, the loved ones we have lost and the pain of the bereaved they have left behind.”

Alan Mak, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, said: “A day of reflection would enable us to remember those who have lost their lives or been affected by coronavirus, support those who’ve been bereaved and look to a brighter future as the vaccination programme brings hope and freedom.”

Campaigners hope that the day will become an annual event.

To find out more about the plans, visit mariecurie.org.uk/ dayofreflection.

Comment by Matthew Reed

THE last year has been one of the most traumatic and uniting in modern history.

With so many of us losing family members, friends and colleagues to Covid-19 and other illnesses since the start of the pandemic, our shared sense of loss is incomparable to anything felt by this generation.

Whatever the cause, every death has been devastating for those left behind. Many of us have been unable to say a real goodbye or comfort our family, friends, and colleagues in their grief.

We’ve missed moments to grieve together, pay our respects, celebrate a life lost. We have been denied the rituals we need to help us through our personal and collective grief – and we need to acknowledge that.

That’s why on March 23, on the anniversary of the first UK lockdown, Marie Curie, alongside the Daily Express and more than 70 supporting organisations, will mark a National Day of Reflection.

We will come together to reflect on our collective loss, celebrate the lives of the special people no longer here, support those who have been bereaved and look towards a much brighter future.

The day offers each of us a moment to reflect on the overwhelming loss of life we’ve faced and a chance to reach out and connect with those who are grieving.

On the day itself, Marie Curie, who support so many at the end of their lives, will be organising a range of online events and activities to enable people to take part in the National Day of Reflection in whatever way they feel comfortable with. Everyone is welcome.

There will also be a nationwide minute’s silence at noon. At 8pm we’ll hold another minute of silence and come together to light up the night.

We’re encouraging the nation to stand outside with a light – a candle, a torch, even your phone – or shine a light in your window for everyone to see. Prominent buildings will also be lit up at the same time.

There are still tough times ahead – we know this pandemic is far from over. But there is also hope around the corner.

So wherever you live, whatever your beliefs, and whatever you’ve been through, please join us on March 23 to take a minute to reflect.

And then take a moment to connect, to reach out to someone you know is grieving and who might appreciate your support.

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