World

UK pays tribute to NHS on 72nd birthday

By AAP Newswire

People across the UK have joined in a round of applause to mark the 72nd anniversary of the free-to-use National Health Service, one of the country's most cherished institutions.

The reverence with which it is held has been bolstered this year during what has been Europe's deadliest coronavirus outbreaks.

Though the UK as a whole has a confirmed virus death toll of more than 44,000, the third-highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil, the NHS and everyone who works within it has been lauded for their work and care.

Created by the Labour government after World War II in 1948 by bringing together the UK's disparate health institutions, the NHS' founding principles have never changed.

Funded by everyone through the tax system, it provides free health care to any UK resident when needed.

The main tribute came at 5pm on Sunday when people joined in a round of applause to commemorate the efforts of everyone involved in the battle against the virus.

A Royal Air Force Spitfire with the message "Thank U NHS" painted on its underside also flew over several eastern NHS hospitals.

The iconic World War II fighter plane finished its run over Cambridge.

After coming down with coronavirus himself and spending three nights in intensive care, Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson credited NHS workers with saving his life and has insisted it will get whatever resources it needs.

Johnson was joined by Annemarie Plas, who founded the ClapforCarers initiative that lasted for 10 weeks following the imposition of the UK-wide lockdown on March 23, during Sunday's round of applause.

She said she felt "very honoured" to have been able to join Johnson.

The UK death toll from confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 22 on Sunday to 44,220, the department of health said.