Boris Johnson has pledged to build a “fitting and permanent” memorial to those who have died from Covid-19, as Britain marked the anniversary of the first national lockdown.
The prime minister said the past year was “one of the most difficult in our country’s history” but that he believes the nation had shown “great spirit” throughout the pandemic.
It came on the day new figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a total of 149,117 people have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began.
In Scotland, the death toll from coronavirus is almost at 10,000.
Mr Johnson, speaking at the 145th Downing Street press conference since the onset of the pandemic, said “at the right moment” a permanent memorial to those who died from coronavirus will be built and the “whole period” will be commemorated.
He said: “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.
“For month after month, our collective fight against coronavirus was like fighting in the dark against a callous and invisible enemy until science helped us to turn the lights on and gain the upper hand.”
On right path
Mr Johnson went on to say Britain is now “step by step, jab by jab” on the path to “reclaiming our freedoms”.
He said: “It’s thanks to all of you therefore that we can continue on our road map to freedom.
“We will meet our targets, offering a first dose to everyone over 50 by the middle of next month, as well as those under 50 who are clinically vulnerable, and offering a first dose of a vaccine to every adult by the end of July.
“And cautiously but irreversibly, step by step, jab by jab, this country is on the path to reclaiming our freedoms.”
— Alan Richardson (@C_ARichardson) March 23, 2021
Asked to reflect on what he would have done differently, Mr Johnson said “in retrospect there are probably many things which we wished we’d known and which we’d done differently at the time”.
He added: “The single biggest false assumption that we made was about the potential for asymptomatic transmission, that misunderstanding led to real problems that we then really had to work very hard to make up ground.”
His comments came after a national minute of silence was observed by members of the public, NHS and care staff and politicians across the UK, with cathedrals and both houses of parliament falling silent.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was among those who joined the minute’s silence to remember those who have lost their lives.
He tweeted: “As we mark one year since our country entered the first lockdown, my thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones since the pandemic began.”
Nicola Sturgeon added: “One year on. Thinking today of all those who have lost a loved one to Covid, and to everyone who continues to make heartbreaking sacrifices as we continue to navigate our way through this terrible ordeal, together.
“Also, many people have lost loved ones to causes other than Covid over the past 12 months.
“The restrictions in place have made the grieving process even more difficult than it would have been – my thoughts are with you too.”