The Prime Minister offered his ‘sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones’ and praised the ‘great spirit shown by our nation’ ahead of the one minute’s silence in tribute to those who have died during the pandemic.
Downing Street said he reflected with Cabinet ministers this morning on ‘a very dark and difficult year’ for the nation.
With the official death toll passing 126,172 deaths, Mr Johnson has also warned a third wave of Covid-19 cases sweeping across Europe could ‘wash up on our shores as well’.
He will face lockdown-sceptics on the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs in an attempt to quell unease over his plan to ease restrictions ahead of a Commons vote later this week.
But they are likely to be further angered by proposals to legally require care home workers to be vaccinated, and for foreign holidays to continue being outlawed until at least June 30.
Ahead of a minute’s silence at midday, Mr Johnson praised those who developed and rolled out vaccines, parents who homeschooled their children and the public who endured social distancing.
He said: ‘The last 12 months has taken a huge toll on us all, and I offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones.
‘Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year – one of the most difficult in our country’s history.
‘We should also remember the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year. We have all played our part, whether it’s working on the front line as a nurse or carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to get that jab into arms, home schooling your children, or just by staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus.
‘It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all.’
After the prime minister met with Cabinet members this morning, a No 10 spokesman said he began by ‘reflecting on what he said had been a very dark and difficult year for our country’.
He added: ‘The PM said that we mourn all those we have lost and send our deepest sympathies to their families, friends and loved ones.
‘The PM said the last year had also shown the great strengths of the British public, which had demonstrated such resilience and fortitude, and had shown such willingness to work together for a common good.’
Mr Johnson and his Cabinet also were said to have paid tribute to the ‘extraordinary service’ of NHS and social care workers, as well as those in the public sector.
He also praised the ‘absolutely astonishing achievement’ of British scientists and businesses in developing a vaccine and delivering it to half the adult population within a year.
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