Most of those felled by the coronavirus have been reduced to a passing number. In “Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard”, the 18th century poet Thomas Gray reflected on the “unhonoured dead”. I am no poet, but feel that same urge.
To date, 75,000 UK death certificates mention Covid-19, either as an underlying cause of death or as a significant condition contributing to death. These fatalities need to be properly lamented.
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If politicians, wealthy businessmen, influential journalists or celebrities were being culled by the virus, we would be told over and over. The media sombrely and rightly cover the loss of irreplaceable figures such as Tim Brooke-Taylor (The Goodies) and Eddie Large (Little and Large) to coronavirus, but most others pass into the hereafter unrecognised by the wider public.
Spain has held a memorial service for the victims of the disease; the German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, wants his country to have an official commemoration ceremony because: “The corona death is a lonely death. We must help people in their grief – and think about how we express our sympathy.”
Have our rumbustious Prime Minister and his acolytes considered a monument or organising a national remembrance for Covid-19 victims? Or are they too busy thinking about the big Brexit party?
Black, Asian and other minority groups are four times more likely to have been infected than white Britons. Figures from the British Medical Association in June showed that although only 21 per cent of staff are Bame, 63 per cent of healthcare workers, including 64 per cent of nurses and 95 per cent of doctors who died, were from an ethnic group.
In truth, infection and death rates are tragically high among all disadvantaged Britons. The health think-tank The King’s Fund published figures showing that until June, deaths from Covid-19 were 120 per cent higher in the most deprived areas than in the least.
Meet just a few of them: Nik Devlin, 56, a writer and design engineer; Kalli Mantala-Bozos, 50, a clinical psychologist; Paula Greenhough, 55, a dance teacher and a twin; Emily Perugia, 29, a care co-ordinator; Lynsay Coventry, 54, a midwife; Elbert Rico, a hospital porter; Khalid Jamil, 57, a healthcare assistant; Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, 28, a nurse; Alan Fitchett, 65, a teacher; Mandy Siddorn, pharmacy technician, 61; Connor Reed, 26, thought to be the first Briton to catch Covid-19, who died in his university hall of residence.
Some relatives and friends are setting up helplines. One of them is Nik Devlin’s partner, Edwina fitzPatrick, creator of CovidSpeakEasy which has become a lifeline for many. And the family of a deceased pharmacist I knew have weekly Zoom prayer meetings for his soul. His weeping wife tells me: “Nobody cares about us.”
Britons are getting turkey ready for Christmas. Yes, be merry, but let’s have a two-minute silence on Christmas Eve to honour those who will never again celebrate the festivities. And let’s do that yearly.