COVID-19: Huge London memorial wall marks scale of UK’s coronavirus deaths – as families ensure loved ones don’t ‘disappear’

On a wall which was a blank canvas less than two weeks ago, thousands upon thousands of simple hand drawn hearts now fill the space.

They stretch for a third-of-a-mile along the south bank of the River Thames, each one a symbol of a life lost in the UK to coronavirus.

On Sunday, it will be one year since Becky Kummer’s father Peter died – and she says helping create the memorial wall has felt "therapeutic".

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"I’ve done a lot of my grieving in isolation," she said.

"Being here has meant feeling like part of a coming together to memorialise all of our losses."

There are more than 150,000 hearts in all to match the number of lives lost, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

"You see that number on the screen or in newspapers and you know it’s a big number but you don’t get the scale of it until it takes 10 minutes to walk the full length of the wall," said Becky.

Fran Hall had only been married three weeks when her husband lost his life. He was 65.

"This is a wall created by the people for all the memories of people we have lost to COVID-19," she said.

"As a nation we have all suffered and as families, we are devastated our loved ones have disappeared, they have just gone and this wall gives us an idea of how many of them there are."

Fran, like Becky, is a member of COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a group urging the government to make the memorial on the opposite side of the river to the Houses of Parliament a permanent feature.

"We have been on our own and now we have got somewhere to come. This is our memorial and it needs to stay here," said Fran.

The hearts have been drawn by the loved ones left behind, health workers, volunteers and passers-by in just 11 days.

Sally Makady had stopped with Hannah, seven, and five-year-old Maya to read the messages and let them add to the wall.

"We saw the hearts and I thought it was a great idea for the children to reflect on what has happened and think of what we have learnt this last year," she said.

Chris Haydon regularly walks along the path beside the wall with his 21-month-old son.

"I think it’s really beautiful and I think it’s really important it’s opposite the Houses of Parliament which is ground zero for the catastrophic failure of our absolutely abysmal, shameful government," he said.

"The wall goes on and on and on and on and the numbers can become meaningless but I think it brings the statistic alive to see the scale of the tragedy that’s continuing to unfold."

The organisers want everyone to spend 10 minutes "walking the wall" and remembering those who have gone.

But the sad reality is that this memorial isn’t finished.

As more lives are lost, more hearts will be added… each one representing yet another family’s grief.

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