“Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service" Her Majesty the Queen
The Queen has marked the 73rd Anniversary of the founding of the NHS by awarding the George Cross to all NHS workers.
It is the highest award bestowed by the British government “for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger.”
In a personal, handwritten message, the Queen said: “This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations.
“Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service.”
It is the highest award bestowed by the British government “for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.”
It is equal in stature to the Victoria Cross, the highest military gallantry award, and was instituted in 1940 during the height of the Blitz in World War Two by King George VI.
It was intended primarily for civilians to reward their bravery. In 1942 it was conferred on Malta in recognition of the heroism displayed by the island’s inhabitants during enemy bombardment in WW2.
Members of the Royal Family joined senior NHS figures, frontline staff and patients at a service at St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the work of the health service during Covid-19.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said the award recognised the “skill and fortitude” of NHS staff, who had responded to the worst pandemic in a century and the greatest challenge for the country sine WW2.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced it was expected most Covid restriction rules in England would end on July 19. This will be confirmed on July 12 after a review of the data.
Face masks will no longer be legally required and distancing rules will be scrapped.
The PM said it was thanks to the success of the vaccine rollout in breaking the link between cases and deaths. But he warned cases were predicted to rise to 50,000 a day later this month.
However, he asked: “If we don’t go ahead now when we’ve clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link, when would we go ahead?”
This echoed Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid’s comment in the Mail on Sunday: “We need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly. I know many people will be cautious about the easing of restrictions – that’s completely understandable. But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view.”
Mr Javid also said restrictions needed to be lifted because of the toll Covid had taken a toll on the nation’s mental health.
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