LONDON, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Britain on Sunday saw a nationwide round of clapping to pay tribute to the National Health Service (NHS) staff on the 72nd anniversary of its founding.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined the clapping outside 10 Downing Street as the public came together at 17:00 BST (1800 GMT) to give a round of applause for all those who helped save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
The applause followed the weekly "Clap for Carers" initiative during the height of the coronavirus outbreak and it is hoped that the applause will become an annual tradition to mark future NHS birthdays.
On Saturday, dozens of landmarks in Britain, including Downing Street, the Royal Albert Hall, the Shard and London Eye, were lit up blue to mark the birthday of NHS. Meanwhile, Britons were also asked to place a light in their windows on Saturday night in remembrance of those who have died during the pandemic.
"It's been the most challenging year in the history of the NHS and staff from across the health service have pulled out the stops like never before to deliver extraordinary care," said Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.
The data from NHS showed that over the last few months its staff have worked around the clock to tackle coronavirus, caring for the 100,000 patients with COVID-19 who needed specialist hospital treatment and treating countless others besides, redesigning services and creating backup Nightingale hospitals.
Labour leader Keir Starmer called for a pay rise for NHS staff in the wake of the pandemic.
"It's very important that we don't just say thanks, but recognise in a meaningful way what the NHS has done," he told a rally celebrating the anniversary.
BBC reported that unions representing more than 1.3 million nurses, cleaners, physiotherapists, healthcare assistants, dieticians, radiographers, porters, midwives, paramedics and other NHS employees have written to the chancellor and the prime minister recently calling for pay talks to start soon.
The NHS was launched on July 5, 1948, in Manchester. For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella to provide care for free.
Another 22 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain as of Saturday afternoon, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 44,220, the British Department of Health and Social Care said Sunday.
The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
As of Sunday morning, 285,416 people have tested positive for the disease in Britain, a daily increase of 516, according to the department.