A year to the day after they were first ordered to stay at home to contain the spread of Covid-19, Britons will remember on Tuesday the more than 126,000 people who have lost their lives to the virus.
People were being invited to observe a minute's silence at midday (1200 GMT) to honour the dead, and to stand on their doorsteps at 8 p.m. holding candles or torches.
Official data shows that on March 23, 2020, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson stunned the nation by ordering people to stay at home and shutting down much of the economy, fewer than 1,000 Britons had succumbed to the novel coronavirus.
Now, the number of people known to have died in the United Kingdom within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 stands at 126,172 -- the worst toll in Europe and fifth highest in the world.
Six million people have been bereaved, according to the end-of-life charity Marie Curie.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was himself very ill with Covid-19 in April 2020 and spent three nights in intensive care, opened Tuesday's cabinet meeting by reflecting on "a very dark and difficult year" for Britain, his Downing Street office said.
Johnson told ministers the nation was mourning for those who have died, and he paid tribute to health and care workers and to society as a whole for keeping the country going.
The past year has tested people with repeated lockdowns, forced separation from family and friends, months of home schooling for millions of children and entire industries mothballed and fighting for survival.
Hearts to remember
In the evening, landmarks across the United Kingdom, from the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and Wembley Stadium to Cardiff Castle and Belfast City Hall will be lit up in yellow as a beacon of hope and support for the bereaved.
"Let us take a moment together to remember those who have been lost, to give thanks for their lives, and to acknowledge the inexpressible pain of parting," said Prince Charles, heir to the throne, in a video message.
At Kew Gardens, the world-renowned botanical gardens in west London, two heart-shaped flower beds made up of yellow tulips, hyacinths and polyanthus were on display, in solidarity with the Yellow Hearts to Remember campaign to support the bereaved.
After a second national lockdown kept people shut up in their homes through the worst months of winter, Britain is gradually easing restrictions under a four-step plan underpinned by the success of the national vaccination campaign.
Close to 28 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, offering hope of a gradual return to normality.
Johnson paid tribute to scientists, saying he would not have believed in March 2020 that within a year vaccines would have been developed and half Britain's adult population would have received at least one dose.
For now, however, life remains far from normal, as was evident on London's public transport network in what used to be the morning rush hour.
Where before the pandemic thousands of people would be crammed together like sardines, small numbers of commuters all wearing face masks had space to sit down.
"It's been a struggle, I'm not going to lie," said Londoner Tom Johnson on his way to work.
"We can sort of see a light at the end of the tunnel now," he added. "I think we're quite a strong, resilient sort of country, and I reckon we'll come back flying."