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On this wall, there is one heart for every Briton who died from COVID. But now, they are starting to fade

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Opposite the Houses of Parliament, there is a wall adorned with more than 150,000 painted hearts – each representing someone who has died after contracting coronavirus.

The hearts are beginning to fade after being exposed to sunshine and rain.

Every week, volunteers painstakingly repaint them, as well as adding new ones in memory of those who lose their lives to COVID-19.

The memorial wall is opposite the Houses of Parliament
Image: The memorial wall is opposite the Houses of Parliament

Now, there are growing calls for the memorial to be permanently preserved.

One of the volunteers looking after the wall, Fran Hall, lost her husband during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said being able to visit the wall and speak to other bereaved people while they paint is “therapeutic”.

Volunteers want to paint over the hearts with a specialist lacquer, like those used to protect street art.

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“It’s a conservation area and there are probably planning issues,” Fran said. “So in the meantime, we’re just going to keep coming here and make sure it doesn’t fade.”

The hearts are beginning to fade after being exposed to sunshine and rain
Image: The hearts are beginning to fade after being exposed to sunshine and rain

Elena Ciesco is someone who visits the wall frequently. For her, it’s a physical representation of her grief after losing her father in December 2020.

“For me it’s somewhere I can come and reflect, pay tribute to my dad and just remember him. Because he wasn’t just a number, he was a face, a human being. A living human being that mattered,” she said.

Earlier this year, a group of MPs and peers also urged the prime minister to make the wall a permanent memorial.

Among them was Labour MP Afzal Khan, who lost his mother, mother-in-law and father-in-law to COVID.

He described it as “the people’s wall” – and said its physical position is symbolic.

“On one side is the hospital and the NHS’s role in helping us is important. Then the opposite side is parliament which is a symbol of the country, and which really needs to be looking at this,” he said.

MPs have also joined calls to permanently preserve the memorial wall
Image: MPs have also joined calls to permanently preserve the memorial wall

In May, the government announced it will establish a commission on COVID commemoration to “consider the appropriate way to remember those who have lost their lives and recognise those involved in the unprecedented response”.

While the bereaved await the terms of that commission, volunteers say they will continue to paint over the hearts – and hope they may be able to stop adding new ones soon.