Clap for Heroes: renamed ritual returns with a whimper

Nurses urge the public to obey lockdown rules rather than applaud staff fighting Covid-19

Clap for Carers returned to the UK on Thursday evening under the guise of Clap for Heroes but with the same purpose: to show appreciation for those fighting the pandemic.

The new name encompasses a broader range of workers than those in the care sector only, but this was not reflected in a rather tepid turnout for the resurrected nightly round of applause at 8pm each night.

As this picture shows, apart from one respectful feline, even 10 Downing Street failed to recognise the occasion.

epa08925309 Apart from Larry the Cat, the door to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minster, stands empty during the Clap for Heroes initiative in London, Britain, 07 January 2021. Clap for Carers, an initiative for members of the public to applaud National Health Service (NHS) workers, has returned under a new name of Clap for Heroes. The weekly applause founded by Annemarie Plas for front-line NHS staff and other key workers ran for ten weeks during the UK's first coronavirus lockdown spring 2020. Plas later distanced herself from the new initiative.  EPA/NEIL HALL

One reason is that nurses have been among those to criticise the revival.

There is a widespread feeling that it is a hollow gesture and that a far better way of according respect to the front line would be for people to wear masks around others and follow Covid restrictions.

Some nurses also objected to the new name. Kirstie Hill told Nursing Times that hero was a dangerous term because it "implied invincibility".

“We are not invincible and when we do say we’re struggling, we’re not believed,” Ms Hill said.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer was among those who took part but tweeted that clapping wasn’t enough.

The damp squib will disappoint the organiser of Clap for Carers, Annemarie Plas.

Ms Plas had hoped the initiative would “lift the spirit of all of us” including “all who are pushing through this difficult time”.

Millions of people across the UK took part in Clap for Carers, which started days after the UK entered lockdown in March 2020.

People stood outside their homes banging pots and pans while some landmarks were lit up in blue, the colour of the National Health Service.

Members of the royal family and other prominent figures took part, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured clapping outside 10 Downing Street, where he was in isolation after contracting the virus.

The initiative concluded after 10 weeks over concerns that it was becoming politicised.

Some suggested the NHS would better benefit from increased funding rather than applause.

NHS Million, an awareness movement comprising health workers, said clapping was unnecessary.

According to the latest data, there are 30,451 coronavirus patients in hospital, the highest number since the pandemic began.

Mr Johnson said England’s lockdown was imposed because the NHS was at risk of becoming overwhelmed within three weeks.

Here is an explanation of the current restrictions.