Boris Johnson last night 'wholeheartedly' backed the Daily Mail's campaign to help create a national memorial for Britain's Covid victims.
As generous donations from readers continued to flood in, the Prime Minister led a chorus of cross-party approval for the drive to build a moving tribute at St Paul's Cathedral.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was 'honoured' to support the plan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said it was a 'fantastic idea' and the SNP 's Ian Blackford and the Green Party's Jonathan Bartley also pledged their support.
The idea is for a magnificent new entrance at the cathedral featuring a grand oak portico engraved with the words 'Remember Me', leading through to a chapel housing screens showing a virtual book of remembrance for those lost to the pandemic.
Boris Johnson (pictured) last night 'wholeheartedly' backed the Daily Mail's campaign to help create a national memorial for Britain's Covid victims
And the Dean at St Paul's, The Very Reverend David Ison, has also expressed his immense gratitude to Mail readers.
Admitting that he had personally found the pandemic 'overwhelming', he said: 'We are so hugely grateful, and on behalf of all those people we are seeking to commemorate, it is just a wonderful thing for us that the Daily Mail and its readers are helping us in this way. Thank you.'
More than 2,500 generous readers have already contributed to the £2.3million needed for the lasting tribute by raising more than £96,000 over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was 'honoured' to support the plan, which has seen more than 2,500 generous readers already contributing to the £2.3million needed for the lasting tribute by raising more than £96,000 over the Bank Holiday weekend
An impressive £82,000 was donated online with an estimated £14,000 collected via gift aid.
It takes the amount raised by St Paul's to a total of more than £536,500 so far. Supporting the memorial last night, Mr Johnson said it was time to honour the 127,500 lives lost.
He added: 'I wholeheartedly support this campaign for what I am sure will be a fitting, poignant and lasting memorial in St Paul's Cathedral, in the heart of our capital city. Coronavirus has taken a heart-breaking toll on families across the UK, and it is right that we come together to honour the memories of all those we have lost.
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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said it was a 'fantastic idea', saying that the memorial will help us to remember the ‘many families’ who have lost a loved one
How all five national leaders got behind our campaign
Boris Johnson: ‘I wholeheartedly support this campaign for what I am sure will be a fitting, poignant and lasting memorial in St Paul's. Coronavirus has taken a heart-breaking toll on families across the UK – it is right that we come together to honour all those we have lost.
Keir Starmer: ‘We must never forget those who we have lost. St Paul's has always served as a symbol of both remembrance and hope, and a memorial there would be entirely fitting. I am honoured to support such an important campaign.’
Ed Davey, Lib Dem: ‘This is a very moving campaign and a fantastic idea. So many families have lost a loved one, we must remember them. This memorial will help us do that.’
Ian Blackford, SNP: ‘ This past year has been like no other… memorials such as this will allow, in the years to come, spaces that people will be able to visit and cherish to remember their loved ones.’
Greens’ Jonathan Bartley: ‘We support a site of memorial for all those who have lost their lives during the Covid pandemic, to provide the opportunity for all communities to reflect on this unprecedented period.’
'In the months ahead, the Government will bring forward plans to support communities across our country to commemorate all that we have been through.' Labour leader Sir Keir added: 'St Paul's has always served as a symbol of both remembrance and hope – from its rebuilding after the Great Fire of London to its importance during the war effort. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic and plan a better future for our country, we must never forget those who we have lost.
'A memorial at the cathedral would be entirely fitting and I am honoured to support such an important campaign.'
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed said: 'This is a very moving campaign and a fantastic idea, I'm really glad the Daily Mail is getting behind it.
'So many families have lost a loved one, we must remember them.'
And SNP Westminster leader Mr Blackford said: 'This past year has been like no other and for many families it will have been unimaginably difficult. Memorials such as the one planned for St Paul's will allow, in the years to come, spaces that people will be able to visit and cherish to remember their loved ones.'
Green Party co-leader Mr Bartley added: 'The Green Party supports a site of memorial for all those who have lost their lives during the Covid pandemic.' The memorial, which is open to those of any faith, already has the backing of Prince Charles, grieving families and faith leaders.
It is free to add a loved one to the virtual book of remembrance launched last year, which already bears almost 8,000 victims' names. St Paul's hopes to raise the funds by midsummer, aiming to finish work in time for the second anniversary of the start of the pandemic next March. Many donations have come from grieving relatives.
Emma Bellamy, who lost her 38-year-old husband Jamie last April, wrote: 'I cannot wait for this memorial to be built for all those lost to Covid-19. They will never just be a number, they all have a name – Jamie Bellamy was his name.'
The SNP's Ian Blackford (left) said that people will be able to visit and cherish their loved ones while the Green Party's Jonathan Bartley (right) also pledged support
And the Dean at St Paul's, The Very Reverend David Ison (pictured left, with Queen Elizabeth II), has also expressed his immense gratitude to Mail readers
From one of the first survivors… I was so lucky. let's show our love for those who weren't
Commentary by Robin Hanbury-Tenison
The morning after an ambulance had rushed me into Derriford Hospital in Plymouth with a dangerously low oxygen level, I was visited by a consultant and his entourage.
He looked at my notes and said: 'Yes, you definitely have it and you now have two choices – you can stay here in this nice admission ward where you will almost certainly die; or you can be taken down to intensive care (ICU) where we will do all sorts of nasty things to you and you will have a 20 per cent chance of survival.'
This was in mid-March last year and I was one of the first people in the country to develop severe Covid-19 – and certainly one of the first of my age (then 83) to survive.
Robin Hanbury-Tenison recalls being one of the first survivors of Covid-19 in the country
Now, with my 85th birthday on Friday, I cherish my own life and want to give my wholehearted backing to the Mail's fundraising appeal for the planned national memorial in St Paul's Cathedral to those of all ages who didn't make it.
I know how fortunate I have been.
In ICU I was put into an induced coma for five weeks. During some of this time, I was on a ventilator, had a tracheostomy tube inserted, and was put on kidney dialysis.
my wife, Louella, was told to prepare for the worst three times as I had a less than 5 per cent chance of pulling through – and even if I did, my cognitive ability would probably be severely impaired.
Fortunately, I remember very little of that time. The brain is brilliant at removing memories of pain and indignity, while the drugs I was on triggered all sorts of hallucinations. Towards the end of my time in ICU I began to have some fairly lucid moments and I was able to FaceTime with my family.
I remember seeing their faces as though down a long tube and chatting away intelligently, I thought, as they showed me round our garden and told me they loved me.
But most of the time I was still babbling nonsense and everyone worried about getting me out of my coma.
Then, one day, I was taken to the 'healing garden' at Derriford. It is one of the first hospitals in the country to have such a rehab haven for intensive care patients and I was, I believe, only the second patient to use it.
Lying on my bed, with tubes leading in all directions, I was wheeled into the garden and I suddenly felt the sun on my face and was surrounded by flowers.
When I woke up, and despite my tracheostomy tube, I croaked: 'I think I'm going to live.' And from then on I started to recover. But it was a slow process.
Seven weeks after being admitted, I was home, but barely able to walk three yards unaided on my Zimmer frame. It is said that it takes a month to recover from each week spent in intensive care, so I set myself the challenge of being able to climb Cornwall's highest peak, Brown Willy – a modest but steep 1,378ft – by October and attempting to raise £100,000 towards a healing garden for patients in Cornwall's main hospital at Truro.
There is no question in my mind that the one in Plymouth saved my life.
In spite of doing the climb on the day of Storm Alex, when Britain endured the highest rainfall since records began, I made it, dragged by Louella and pushed by my son Merlin. And we have raised well over my target now.
I have been extraordinarily lucky, not just to have survived against all the odds, but to be as fit physically and mentally as I was before.
Almost 128,000 people in Britain didn't make it, through no fault of their own and in spite of the phenomenal efforts made by NHS staff over the past year.
Many more are suffering from Long Covid and will never be fully well again. It is wholly right and appropriate that there should be a national Covid memorial where bereaved families and friends can take comfort in a place where their loved ones can be remembered in peace.
We have all heard heart-breaking stories of those whose lives have been wrecked by this dreadful virus. There is one couple we know who lost the husband to Covid early on and then the wife became very ill. This left their 11-year-old daughter to cope with looking after her baby sibling.
For them, as for so many others, this pandemic has changed everything. The least I feel we can do is help make this memorial a reality – to show that their grief and loss are shared and recognised.
As the Prince of Wales, who is supporting the St Paul's Cathedral Foundation appeal, has said: 'This… will help us remember; not just to recall our loss and sorrow, but also to be thankful for everything good that those we have loved brought into our lives.'
Just as we remember those who died in two world wars and all the conflicts since, so we should honour the many who have lost their lives through a pestilence that came from nowhere and wreaked so much havoc for so many.
Robin Hanbury-Tenison is an explorer and author. His latest book is Taming The Four Horsemen, in which he forecast a pandemic.
What is the plan?
To create a memorial in St Paul's Cathedral to those who died as a result of the pandemic, whether direct victims of Covid or those whose medical treatment was disrupted by lockdown restrictions. The memorial will let people of any faith pay their respects to family and friends at a permanent site.
How will it work?
St Paul's has set up Remember Me – an online book of remembrance. Anyone wishing to remember a loved one can submit, free of charge, the name, photograph and a short message in honour of their loved one at www.rememberme2020.uk
At least four virtual books of remembrance will be installed in the cathedral's Middlesex Chapel. Visitors will be able to light candles or simply sit in contemplation.
The memorial will be in a newly built wooden portico, set in the north transept of the cathedral, away from the busier main doors
Where will it be?
A newly built wooden portico will be set in the north transept of the cathedral, away from the busier main doors. Entrance will be free. It will sit on the site of an earlier hallway which was destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb in 1941.
Alongside works of non-religious art, the words 'Remember Me' will be written in all the main languages of the UK. Visitors will walk through the portico to reach the remembrance area in the Middlesex Chapel.
How much is needed?
£2.3million. Of this, £1.13million is needed to pay for the portico and £670,000 to run the exhibition for two years. Money is needed for the preparatory design work, symbolic artwork and signage. The hope is to open it in March 2022 for the second anniversary of the pandemic. Around £440,000 has already been raised.
Any money raised over the £2.3m required will be used in a variety of ways to help preserve the memorial.
St Paul's has set up Remember Me – an online book of remembrance. Anyone wishing to remember a loved one can submit, free of charge, the name, photograph and a short message in honour of their loved one
Is it part of Mail Force?
No, the Mail is supporting the St Paul's Cathedral Foundation to raise funds for the memorial.
Is this the official national memorial?
There are no other current plans for a national memorial. What started as an online St Paul's memorial, backed by the Prince of Wales and all major faith leaders, has now turned into a project for a physical and living memorial inside the cathedral.
How can you donate?
Go to crowdfunder.co.uk/rememberme . You can donate any sum you like but the first 5,000 people to donate online using the special £25 'Limited Edition Candle from the Daily Mail' button will receive a free Remember Me frankincense scented candle funded by the Mail. By clicking this button, you will have the option of adding a larger sum. Donors using the '£50 Reward' button will receive a year's free membership to St Paul's Cathedral, worth £30. Regrettably, donations made by cheque will not be eligible for the free candle or St Paul's membership.
Make cheques payable to St Paul's Cathedral Foundation and send it to Remember Me, Chapter House, St Paul's Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD. To boost your donation by 25p of Gift Aid for every £1 you donate, please fill in and cut out the form and add this to your envelope.
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