The weekly tradition of applauding Britain’s National Health Service workers who are fighting the coronavirus outbreak has brought the nation closer together – though perhaps too close, as eyewitness video shows.
Firefighters and police gathered on Westminster Bridge to send well wishes to their colleagues on the frontline in a heartwarming display of unity during a difficult time.
#Lambeth LFB crews with @BTPFirearmsUnit & @metpoliceuk on #Westminster #Bridge saying thank you to all the #NHS staff working tirelessly for us all. Thank you to all the NHS staff and key workers across the country #ClapForCarers #clapforkeyworkers @SkyNews #OneTeam @LondonFire pic.twitter.com/osCTMAZbyQ
— LFB LAMBETH (@FireLambeth) April 16, 2020
However, behind the rows of emergency vehicles, the public were joining in the #ClapForCarers in droves, in direct contravention of social distancing norms – greatly increasing the chances of the coronavirus spreading further and risking placing even more of a burden on the very carers they were applauding.
— Damir Rafi (@d_rafi1) April 16, 2020
In the footage, shared by a doctor working at a nearby hospital who himself claimed to be perplexed by the lack of social distancing, members of the public stood close together – in some cases shoulder-to-shoulder – while police looked on, clapping all the while.
“Can’t believe the police stood there and let them do this wtf,” wrote one stunned Twitter user. In recent weeks, British police have been taken to task by the public for heavy-handed policing of people walking their dogs, or attempting to make use of their front gardens.
Some decried the performative aspect of the weekly applause, arguing: “Social distance except on a Thursday at 8pm.”
“Clapping for the NHS but spreading the one thing that’s stressing them out while breaking the one rule they’ve asked you to abide by, bloody geniuses,” added another.
Wry, gallows humor was in no short supply online, it seems, as many shared in the collective dismay at the carelessness on display.
“I mean the whole clapping thing is just grating now anyway when all us keyworkers and carers are not getting PPE, a test and better pay and a fair working contract,” wrote one user, to which another replied with as much pith as they could muster: “They got badges mate” – a reference to the much-derided ‘care’ badges touted by Health Minister Matt Hancock.
As of Friday morning, the UK currently has 104,148 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, while the country’s death toll has reached 13,759, the fourth highest in Europe.