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Viral video spotlights ethnic minorities saving Britain as coronavirus sweeps the country

A video titled "You Clap For Me Now" highlights first-, second- and third-generation immigrants who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak. (Video: Creative Director/Producer: Sachini Imbuldeniya, Writer/Director: Darren Smith, Video Editor: Ruben Alvarado)

LONDON — A video spotlighting the work being done by first-, second- and third-generation immigrants living and working in Britain amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak has been widely praised online for its powerful and hard-hitting messaging.

Titled “You Clap For Me Now,” the video rapidly went viral and has been viewed more than 3 million times since being shared on Twitter by British comedian Tez Ilyas on Tuesday evening local time. As of Wednesday morning, the hashtag #YouClapForMeNow had been used over 37,000 times.

Based on a recent poem penned by writer Darren James Smith, the two-minute video took a week to create and features voices from a host of different nationalities who are working around-the-clock to help the country stay afloat and win the war against an infection that has so far claimed more than 12,000 lives in the United Kingdom.

Since the outbreak, Brits have taken to their windows and doorsteps each Thursday evening to clap for health workers at 8 p.m. in a show of gratitude for those risking their lives to help others — the poem, however, wonders whether this appreciation, especially for the immigrants, will extend beyond the crisis in light of the anti-immigration sentiment in the country.

“You clap for me now. You cheer as I toil. Bringing food to your family. Bringing food from your soil,” the group says.

“Not some foreign invader,” the poem continues, making reference to the widely reported rhetoric frequently directed at immigrants, before the professions of key workers holding the country together flash on screen. “Delivery driver, teacher, life saver.”

“Don’t say go home, don’t say not here,” the video urges, in a clear reference to the xenophobic sentiment that fueled the divisive Brexit vote that stunned Britain and much of the world in 2016. Immigration was a hot-button topic during the referendum and buoyed those who wanted to leave the European Union.

“When we emerge from our homes blinking in the sunlight and hopefully freed from the grip of covid-19, we want to remind people not to go back to old, blind ways of thinking. Of assuming that certain jobs are ‘unskilled’ and therefore ‘unworthy’,” Smith, the poem’s writer, told The Washington Post. “We are stronger as a nation when we welcome people of all ethnicities and backgrounds to our shores to work and live and love alongside us.”

Filming such a collaboration during a period of lockdown required careful consideration. Contributors submitted clips of themselves reading verses from the poem and sent them to the video’s creative director, Sachini Imbuldeniya, who worked with her friend Ruben Alvarado to edit the footage together. Voices in the short clip were found through family, friends and social media, Imbuldeniya told The Post.

“I really do hope that after we recover from this pandemic we don’t return to the xenophobia and bigotry that we’ve seen over the past decade,” she said. Imbuldeniya’s mother came to Britain from Sri Lanka 50 years ago and worked as a nurse.

Amid the growing coronavirus crisis, Britain’s widely cherished but chronically underfunded National Health Service has emerged as the most vital of institutions — a trusted group of thousands of workers from different backgrounds whom so many owe their lives to, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent days in intensive care at a London hospital as he battled covid-19.

Boris Johnson praises immigrant nurses who saved his life, as Britain’s NHS becomes a rallying cry

We recognize how much we need all of them now,” the creative team said of the health-care workers across Britain.