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Coronavirus: Lights and applause as public in Northern Ireland salute our health staff

Some of Northern Ireland's best-known landmarks were lit up on Thursday evening as part of a national salute to NHS healthcare workers, while in towns and villages, people applauded and cheered as they joined in the UK's Clap For Carers tribute.

In Belfast, the Albert Clock, City Hall, and The Mac arts centre were bathed in blue as part of a nationwide campaign honouring the hard-working NHS staff battling coronavirus with a mass round of applause.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "On behalf of the whole country, I want to thank all the incredible nurses, doctors, NHS support staff and carers who are working flat out to fight coronavirus.

"To help them, and protect the NHS, we need everyone to stay at home #StayHomeSaveLives."

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Boris Johnson applauds outside No10

Boris Johnson applauds outside No10

PA

Boris Johnson applauds outside No10

Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were among those applauding the NHS as part of the Clap For Carers. A video of the three young royals clapping was posted on the Kensingtonroyal Instagram account.

The Clap For Carers campaign, which started online, was set up because "during these unprecedented times they need to know we are grateful", the organisers said.

The initiative showed public appreciation for the health service workers battling the coronavirus outbreak.

People all over the UK joined the mass round of applause from their doorsteps, windows and balconies at 8pm.

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Eileen and John Logan, join in the clapping

Eileen and John Logan, join in the clapping

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Eileen and John Logan, join in the clapping

The Wembley Arch, the Principality Stadium, the Royal Albert Hall and Lincoln Cathedral were among some of the UK landmarks illuminated.

Strangford MP and DUP health spokesman Jim Shannon, who lives in a rural area of Co Down, said he could hear the sounds of clapping from nearby Greyabbey, several fields away from his home.

"Our NHS staff have been magnificent in how they have responded to the crisis," he said.

"We're all indebted to them: they are real heroes and heroines of our age.

"It is only right that we all should recognise and honour them for what they are doing to help all of us at this very difficult time for everyone."

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced free travel for NHS workers on public transport services in Northern Ireland from today, while the fight against Covid-19 continues.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Daniel Baker said that the applause was an important gesture, and an opportunity to show NHS workers our gratitude.

"I know I speak for everyone when I say how proud we are of all those health and care workers who are working round the clock in very challenging conditions.

"On behalf of the city, I want to say 'Thank You'."

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Belfast City Hall is illuminated blue last night in a show of support for NHS workers

Belfast City Hall is illuminated blue last night in a show of support for NHS workers

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Hall is illuminated blue last night in a show of support for NHS workers

Former Stormont Health Minister Jim Wells added his voice to the praise for health workers.

"I think not only are they very dedicated professionals, but they are very brave indeed in putting themselves in the front line," he said.

The South Down MLA suggested that NHS staff should be formally recognised for their service during the present emergency.

"Perhaps the Government could write off any outstanding student loans for doctors and nurses. That could be a tangible way of recognising the value of their service to us all," he said.

Asked how she felt about the planned show of appreciation, Ruth May, chief nursing officer of the NHS, said: "Very humble, very proud, and a clap for our carers will mean so much for all of our NHS staff and social care teams as well.

"Thank you. I appreciate it."

In Northern Ireland, Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann offered his support.

"I applaud this initiative and hope it will be strongly supported across our community," he said beforehand.

Belfast Telegraph