Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote his own tribute to veterans of WWII today adding that the government must protect them from the coronavirus as it rips through the country’s care homes.
In an article saluting veterans on the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, he added that the care sector requires attention after the pandemic to protect those who ‘protected our country in its darkest hour’.
His comments come the same day that Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the public to engage the ‘same spirit’ used by the VE Day generation during the war.
Britain’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks during the weekly question time debate in Parliament in London on Wednesday
Veterans observe a two minute silence as they attend a service at the National Memorial Arboretum 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Alrewas, Staffordshire yesterday
Parliament’s House of Commons Chamber images of Boris Johnsons at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions
Sir Starmer wrote in the article for the Telegraph newspaper: ‘We owe so much to the generation of VE Day. We must do everything we can to care and support them through the current crisis.’
‘We have all heard the harrowing stories of the virus spreading through care homes, with families unable to say their last goodbyes,’ he added.
‘The crisis in our care homes has gone on for too long, and we must do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable, many of whom protected our country in its darkest hour.’
It was revealed yesterday that the frontline had moved from hospitals to care homes where the R rate – the indicator of how many people each virus carrier infects – has increased despite the strict lockdown.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had estimated the R rate at between 0.5 and 0.9.
Mr Johnson wrote: ‘But please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered’
This VE Day marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (pictured, blind war veterans clapping for carers outside Blind Veterans UK, East Sussex)
Britain announced 539 coronavirus victims on Thursday, as the UK’s official toll rose to 30,615
But John Edmunds, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told a Commons committee last night that the Reproduction rate had risen sharply in the past two weeks.
He said the figure could now be as high as 1.0, an increase ‘driven by the epidemic in care homes’. If the rate exceeds this mark, infections could begin to spread, rather than decrease.
Office for National Statistics chief Sir Ian Diamond told yesterday’s Downing Street press conference: ‘That gives us a real challenge to reduce the epidemic in care homes and it’s one that I think – over the next few weeks – will happen.’
He added: ‘At the moment we need, certainly, to get on top of the epidemic in care homes and in hospitals.’
In his letter sent to veterans today, Boris Johnson said: ‘On this anniversary, we are engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus which demands the same spirit of national endeavour that you exemplified 75 years ago.’
‘We cannot pay our tribute with the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past; your loved ones may be unable to visit in person,’ he wrote.
‘But please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered.’
VE Day will be marked with small commemorations in Parliament, with Speakers of both the Commons and the Lords expected to offer tributes (pictured, in New York)
The ban on mass events means the celebrations will be more low-key than initially anticipated (pictured, 94-year-old Doug Farrington in his front room window in Oldham)
The Prime Minister’s letter comes at a time of division as Tory MPs urge him to lift lockdown restrictions soon to avoid an economic depression while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warns of a potential second wave of infections.
In his letter, Mr Johnson described those involved in the struggle to defeat Nazism as ‘quite simply the greatest generation of Britons who ever lived’.
He praised those who served on the front line and those involved in the home front effort, adding: ‘Our celebration of the anniversary of the victory might give the impression that Hitler’s downfall was somehow inevitable. You know better.
‘You will remember moments of crisis, even desperation, as our country endured setback, defeat and grievous loss. What made the difference was your valour, fortitude and quiet yet invincible courage.’
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the British government opted to move the early May bank holiday – usually held on the first Monday of the month – to May 8 to allow the UK to mark the 75th anniversary of the 1945 Victory in Europe celebrations.
But the ban on mass events, brought in on March 23 to stem the spread of the virus, means the celebrations will be more low-key than initially anticipated.
The Conservative Party leader labelled the NHS ‘invincible’ in its fight against Covid-19 in a speech following his own release from intensive care last month, having suffered from coronavirus symptoms.
Tributes to veterans of the world war have come from across the political spectrum, echoing Mr Johnson’s and Sir Starmer’s words of gratitude.