April 2, 2020 / 7:16 PM / 2 months ago

Britons reconvene on doorsteps to clap for health workers

LONDON (Reuters) - Britons stood on doorsteps and leaned out of windows on Thursday for a second national round of applause for doctors, nurses and all other essential workers battling the coronavirus outbreak that is forcing them to stay at home and avoid other people.

Tower Bridge and The Shard skyscraper are seen illuminated blue in support of NHS and other key workers as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

For the second Thursday in a row, people across the United Kingdom banged on pots and pans, shouted, clapped and set off firecrackers to show their support for health and care professionals seen as the superheroes of the hour.

With the beloved but overstretched National Health Service (NHS) facing its toughest challenge since it was founded after World War Two, the applause provided a moment of unity and emotional release in the midst of anxiety and isolation.

In some London streets, children banged on xylophones and shook maracas to say thank you, while fireworks could be seen and heard on the skyline.

The top of the Shard, a skyscraper in the London Bridge area that is the tallest building in Western Europe, was lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS logo.

Landmarks across the country were also bathed in blue light, including one of the towers at Queen Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle and the Gothic exterior of King’s College Cambridge.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has tested positive for the virus and is self-isolating, briefly stepped out into Downing Street to join in the applause.

Mirroring similar initiatives in other countries from Italy to India, the event was widely promoted on social media networks under the tag #ClapForCarers and looks likely to become a weekly ritual for as long as the lockdown lasts.

Fire brigades tweeted videos of firefighters clapping in front of rows of fire engines with their blue lights flashing, while police in several parts of the country posted footage of officers clapping next to police cars with blazing lights.

The crew of several Royal Navy ships including the HMS Severn and the HMS Trent put out videos of their vessels blowing their horns to join in the moment of celebration.

The NHS, which provides free healthcare to everyone living in the United Kingdom, inspires a passion and loyalty in Britons that has been compared to a religion, but the chronically short-staffed service is also a perennial subject of concern.

Tapping into the public’s attachment to the service, the government has made the slogan “Protect The NHS” central to its messaging aimed at persuading people to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus.

Reporting by UK bureau, writing by Estelle Shirbon; editing by William James

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