PRESS RELEASE – Covid Memorial Day

2 September, 2020 (no embargo)

Nationwide vigils to mark six months since first Briton died of UK COVID

Exactly six months since the BBC reported that a 70-year-old woman had become the first Briton to die of COVID-19 people across the country will come together in a national day of remembrance.

In cities, towns and villages, there will be candlelit vigils and socially distanced memorial services for the tens of thousands that have been lost to COVID19.

“Over the six months since that first death was reported, our county has faced a huge amount of loss and yet we had few opportunities to grieve,” said Stefan Simanowitz, founder of Covid Memorial Day.


“Shakespeare warns that if we fail to give sorrow words the grief will o-er wrought heart and bid it break. This day is intended to give words to our sorrow.”


Like Clap for Carers, #CovidMemorialDay is an idea, not an organisation or a campaign, originating from a recognition that there was a need for a moment of reflection and collective grief.

A coalition was formed last month involving faith and community groups, bereaved families organisations as well as the Covid Memorial Forest Fund, that is planting a forest and Help Them Help Us (HEROS), a group that provides support to NHS frontline staff.

“Working as a frontline doctor in COVID intensive care units, I saw the painful toll of this last six months on patients and their ones as well as on NHS staff,” said Dominic Pimenta, NHS doctor and chair of HEROES.


“Today we take a moment remember those who are no longer with us and commit ourselves to continue to support healthcare workers and their bereaved families. None of us should ever forget.”


As well as providing a day to remember, #CovidMemorialDay aims to create a more permanent memorial to the dead in the shape of a memorial forest.

The forest of 50,000 trees will be planted on 60 hectres of land (three sites are currently being considered). The forest will include a playground and butterfly farm as well as an interactive app that will mean each tree you pass will send a message to your phone or tablet. That message will tell you about the life of the person in whose memory that tree was planted, including photos and film.

“Whilst Covid Memorial Day is bound to live long in our hearts, we also wanting to leave a more permanent memorial,” said Salmaan Nasser, co-founder of the Covid Memorial Forest Fund.


“The Memorial Forest will be a sanctuary where people can come and relax and remember but also a symbol post-Covid of rejuvenation and growth.”


The deaths of so many elderly people under COVID-19 led to the setting up of Hear Our Elders who see the pandemic as moment for society to realign the way in which we treat older people. Their digital listening project aims get the people to record the knowledge, wisdom and humour of our elders.

Like the rainbows for the NHS, people are being asked to put pictures of candles in their windows.

Newspaper editors are being requested to include some stories of the deceased in their newspapers. Both the New York Times and O Globo in Brazil, devoted their front page in memory of the dead in the past months.

The 5 September is the half-year point since the first death from COVID19. On 1st January, 2021, #CovidMemorialDay will go global with a worldwide day of remembrance.



There will be candlelit vigils held after sundown in cities, towns and villages. There will also be handful of services.

The exact number of vigils and services is not yet known but people are encouraged to arrange something themselves wherever they are. Full details on @CovidMemoryDay

London memorial service – 5pm, Newington Green Unitarian Church (5 September)

A service with speakers, musicians and the public.
Government COVID19 guidance for safe use of places of worship will be strictly followed meaning that there will only be space for the service will be limited but priority will be given to families of the bereaved.

The London service will be live-streamed. There will be projections, musical performances and a tree of remembrance.

The service will be conducted by Unitarian minister Andy Pakula. London candlelit vigil – Trafalgar Square, North Terrace at 8pm.


Covid Memorial Forest Fund (
HEROESHelp Us Help Them (
Hear Our Elders – Twitter @HearOurElders

Other COVID memorial events

In Amsterdam on August, a vigil in Dam Square saw 10,000 candles lit to commemorate each of the Dutch people taken by coronavirus.

In May, as COVID19 death toll in the US approached 100,000, the New York Times devote their front page in memory of the dead. We’re calling on UK papers – national & local – to do the same.

In July, as death toll hit the 10,000, Brazil’s largest newpaper, O Globo, published ten thousand stories of the dead.

PLEASE NOTE: We are aware that the 5 March was the day that the woman in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, was reported to have died, she actually died two days earlier. We are also aware the numerous people in weeks and month preceding March may have died from undiagnosed COVID19.

PLEASE NOTE: #CovidMemorialDay is an entirely non-political event.
Whilst we are aware of the highly political debate that has gripped the country over these months, However, like a saloon in a Western, everyone getting involved in Covid Memorial Day is asked to kindly leave their guns at the door.


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