UK Commemorates One Year Since the First Lockdown

Peter Russell

March 23, 2021

Editor's note, 24 March 2021: This article was updated with information from a Downing Street briefing.

A minute's silence was held at noon to mark a year since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first UK-wide COVID-19 lockdown.

On what has been called a 'national day of reflection', there has been praise for the efforts of health and care workers through the arduous first months of the pandemic, and thanks to the public for abiding by tough restrictions that prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed.

People are being encouraged to shine a light on their doorsteps at 8pm tonight, with torches, candles, or phones, as a sign of remembrance for those who have died with COVID-19 over the past 12 months.

The event is being organised by end of life charity, Marie Curie, which said an estimated six million people had been bereaved since the start of the pandemic.

Reflecting on the last year, the Prince of Wales, patron of Marie Curie, said in a recorded video message: "We have all been inspired by the resourcefulness we have witnessed, humbled by the dedication shown by so many, and moved, beyond words, by the sacrifices we have seen."

'Stay at Home'

On March 23, 2020, around 27 million people watched the Prime Minister's televised address in which he imposed tough new restrictions, with the mantra to "stay at home, protect our NHS, and save lives".

The first lockdown legally came into force on March 26.

Since the day of Mr Johnson's broadcast, the number of people who have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test has risen from 938 to 126,172.

A total of 146,487 people have died with COVID-19 on the death certificate.

In total across the UK, 4,301,925 people have tested positive for COVID.

'A Huge Toll'

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street briefing: "When people come to describe this epidemic to future generations, we'll tell the story of the heroes of the NHS and social care, the pharmacists, teachers, armed service personnel, shop workers, transport workers, the police, and so many others."  

He also promised: "At the right moment, we will come together as a country to build a fitting and a permanent memorial to the loved ones we've lost, and to commemorate this whole period."

He was asked if there was anything he wished he'd done differently. "There are probably many things that we wished that we'd known, and many things that we wish that we'd done differently at the time in retrospect," he said, highlighting false assumptions about asymptomatic transmission.

Earlier, in a tweet, Mr Johnson, who himself was admitted to hospital with COVID-19, said the last 12 months had taken a "huge toll on us all" and that today's anniversary was an opportunity to reflect on a year which had been "one of the most difficult in our country's history".

Speaking to BBC Breakfast earlier, England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it had been "probably the hardest year in a generation" but that new treatments and the rollout of vaccines provided "hope" for the future.

Gratitude to Healthcare Workers

Commenting on the one-year anniversary, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: "No one could ever have imagined the terrible toll COVID-19 would wreak on our lives when we went into our first national lockdown this time last year."

He added: "We owe a deep debt of gratitude to NHS and care staff who have done everything they can throughout this pandemic to support and care for patients. We thank them for their ongoing commitment, professionalism, and compassion during what has been the toughest year in the NHS' 72-year history."

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said nurses would be reflecting on the loss of friends, colleagues, and patients.

Nursing leader Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN chief executive, said they would also be thanking the public for "sacrifices and gestures, great and small" over the last year.

The Royal College of GPs said today was an opportunity "to remember those we have lost, how the pandemic has impacted on our lives, and how it may change them in the future".


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: