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The COVID Honours: New Year list salutes pandemic problem solvers

Julia Hunt
·Contributor
·5-min read

Watch: Honours list - Round up of the big names recognised

NHS staff, charity workers and other COVID heroes are among those to be recognised in this year’s New Year Honours list.

This year’s roll call of the movers and shakers of 2020 includes famous faces such as actor Sheila Hancock and racing driver Lewis Hamilton.

But there are also plenty of nods for those who have been involved in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Sheila Hancock becomes a dame

They include a palliative care nurse who came out of retirement during the first wave earlier this year, scientists and an entrepreneur who set up Scrub Hub Ashington, to make sure frontline workers in Northumberland had access to uniforms.

Here are some of the COVID heroes being honoured:

  • Catherine Fitzsimmons, a retired palliative care nurse who returned to work amid the pandemic. She was given a British Empire Medal

  • Nadeem Khan, a housing adviser with charity Shelter who helped more than 500 people with their housing problems while stuck 5,000 miles away, who was given a British Empire Medal

  • Professor Wendy Bickmore, head of the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Human Genetics Unit, who was honoured for the centre’s work identifying genes that put some people at greater risk of developing the most serious symptoms

  • Professor Wendy Burn, former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who was made a CBE for predicting the mental health impact of the pandemic on health workers and the public

  • Mark Owen, who has been awarded an MBE for services to policing and to the community in North Wales, particularly during the Covid-19 Response

  • Professor David Stuart, a structural biologist from Oxford University who has spent his career studying the nature of viruses, received a knighthood

Professor Laurence Alison (L) and Professor David Stuart (PA)
Professor Laurence Alison and Professor David Stuart
  • Professor Laurence Alison, director of the National Centre for the Study of Critical Decision Making, who was made an MBE for his work helping clinicians make the right decisions during the pandemic

  • Katherine Dawson, founder of onesie business the All-in-One Company, who was recognised with an OBE for setting up Scrub Hub Ashington

  • Manoj Varsani, founder of property management tool Hammock, was made an MBE for setting up the voluntary organisation SOS Supplies to help plug gaps in supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care staff

Catherine Fitzsimmons

Retired Catherine Fitzsimmons was one of the workers who returned to work amid the pandemic.

The 62-year-old was given a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her work in Greater Manchester.

“I felt I couldn’t sit at home while my colleagues would be struggling with unprecedented situations,” The Independent quoted her as saying.

Manoj Varsani

Fintech entrepreneur Manoj Varsani is the founder of property management tool Hammock.

He was made an MBE for setting up the voluntary organisation SOS Supplies to help plug gaps in supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care staff.

Catherine Fitzsimmons and Manoj Varsani (PA)
Catherine Fitzsimmons and Manoj Varsani (PA)

He said: “I started SOS Supplies as a grass-roots initiative because I believe that technology is an enabler to do good.

“Together with my colleagues at Hammock, we created it from scratch in 24 hours over a weekend and it quickly grew well beyond our expectations, as we worked on it alongside our full-time jobs.”

Nadeem Khan

Shelter housing adviser Khan became stranded in Lahore, Pakistan, after a holiday when flights were cancelled at the start of the pandemic, but continued to work by setting up a makeshift office on the roof of a building using a borrowed dongle and laptop.

He helped more than 500 people with their housing problems while stuck 5,000 miles away.

Nadeem Sadiq Khan,40, a Charity Helpline Housing Adviser and Shelter Team Leader, who has been awarded a BEM for services to the Homeless during Covid-19 in the New Year's Honours List, pictured at Osgathorpe Park in Sheffield.
Nadeem Sadiq Khan (PA)

After receiving a British Empire Medal, he said: “I feel really humbled to have played a frontline role helping people keep safe during what has been a really difficult year and when having access to a safe home has never been more important.

“I feel really honoured for the work not only that I do but that Shelter has been providing to people facing homelessness.”

Professor David Stuart

Professor David Stuart, who has spent his career studying the nature of viruses, was given a knighthood.

He told the PA news agency: “This past year has been challenging for many all over the world, and I am amongst the large number of scientists who are trying to apply their knowledge and expertise to help fight this pandemic.

“I am grateful to all those around me, especially in Oxford University and (science facility) Diamond Light Source, who have worked together tirelessly to understand, in particular, our antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2.”

Katherine Dawson

Katherine Dawson is the founder of onesie business the All-in-One Company.

She received an OBE for setting up Scrub Hub Ashington to make sure frontline workers in Northumberland had access to uniforms.

Undated handout photo issued by All-in-One Company of entrepreneur Katherine Dawson, founder of onesie business the All-in-One Company, who was recognised with an OBE for setting up Scrub Hub Ashington to make sure frontline workers in Northumberland had access to uniforms, in the New Year's Honours list.
Katherine Dawson, founder of onesie business the All-in-One Company (PA)

Read more: Coronation Street star Sally Dynevor ‘still in shock’ over MBE

She enrolled some of the mechanists from the All-in-One Company as well as volunteers to ensure supply, joining a network of 120 scrub hubs across the UK.

“I’m so proud, but still can’t believe it,” Dawson said of being recognised.

Additional reporting by PA.

Watch: Lewis Hamilton receives knighthood