We must, and we will, always remember those we have lost to COVID

A year ago today as a nation we entered lockdown for the first time.

At that point as a deadly new virus swept across the world, what lay ahead of us was unclear.

Suddenly, efforts to suppress the virus, so that we could stand a chance of saving as many lives as possible, relied on all of us taking responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of those around us.

What happened in the days and weeks that followed demonstrated the tireless compassion that we as a nation have for each other.

Although our lives changed in ways that were previously unimaginable, people in communities across Scotland quickly developed unique and innovative ways of supporting one other, as we all got to grips with life with the virus.

None of us will ever forget this past year, which has been like no other.

I am forever grateful for all of the sacrifices each and every one of us has made to protect each other and try to suppress the virus.

Neither will we forget the nearly 10,000 people who have lost their lives in that time – each one of them a person who was loved, who can never be replaced and whose loss is greatly mourned. My condolences are with all of those who have lost a loved one.

Today, after a year when we’ve been forced to live our lives apart and suffer hardships and frustration we will come together to mark the first anniversary of lockdown, to pay our respects to those we have lost, and to reflect on everything we have been through, individually and collectively.

From Parliament, I will invite the nation to join a minute’s silence at noon. Later, Scottish Government premises and buildings and landmarks across the country will light up in yellow, as part of a wider National Day of Reflection organised by Marie Curie.

I have also set out details of a COVID Community Memorial fund, which will support communities to develop projects that help them reflect on the impact of the pandemic, as part of longer term efforts to commemorate those who have lost their lives to the virus.

In the years to come, they will provide spaces that people will visit, and cherish; where people will be able to gather in person to mark the pandemic and to remember those we have lost – and to remember how we supported one another through an extraordinary period.

Vaccines now offer us hope that we can soon get back to a more normal way of life, and give us confidence that we can start to set dates for when it may begin to return.

But as we move forward, and our daily lives begin to return to normal, we will – we must – remember those we have lost, and continue to offer our thoughts, solidarity and support to the bereaved.