LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab led a nationwide show of appreciation for health service workers on Thursday, standing in for his boss, Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In what has become a weekly event, organised largely on social media via the hashtag #ClapForCarers, people across Britain gave a round of applause at 8 p.m. for the National Health Service (NHS).
The public display of support has become a moment of national unity and emotional release during the anxiety of Britain’s lockdown.
Raab and finance minister Rishi Sunak stood apart in an internal Foreign Office courtyard as they smiled and clapped in front of photographers.
Across the country, people stood on their doorsteps and leaned out of their windows, clapping, cheering and banging pots and pans. Some displayed banners with messages of gratitude to the NHS, decorated with hearts and rainbows.
The London Eye was lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS logo, as was the tip of The Shard skyscraper and a billboard in the eerily deserted Leicester Square. A ticker on one building read “Thank you to our amazing NHS workers.”
Along Westminster Bridge, police and fire crews outside their vehicles applauded and flashed their blue emergency lights, while a fire rescue boat on the River Thames spun in circles and sprayed jets of water.
“Thank you to all of those who are looking after us in our time of need,” Raab said earlier at the government’s daily news conference.
“For the doctors and nurses who have died of coronavirus whilst caring for others, we will never forget their sacrifice, we will never forget their devotion to helping others,” he added.
Last week, Johnson joined in with the applause from the steps of Downing Street, despite being in self-isolation after having tested positive for coronavirus on the day of the first time the event happened, March 27.
But within a few days he went to hospital because his symptoms persisted, and was transferred into intensive care on Monday, a move which brought home to many the severity of COVID-19.
Johnson left intensive care on Thursday evening but remains in hospital.
Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; editing by Stephen Addison