EVERY Thursday at 8pm for the last few weeks, a distinctive sound has been heard the length and breadth of the country – the sound of clapping or, in some cases, the banging of pots and pans.

It’s been an audible reflection of how grateful we all are at the dedication of our NHS workers.

And, as the months have gone by, the national cacophony has become a lament too for lives lost.

The NHS and social care workers who are dying are mostly not well paid.

Many of them come from overseas and, as the faces of the lost stare out from our national newspapers, we can see that the NHS workers who’ve died are disproportionately from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds.

The NHS would collapse without immigrant workers from the EU and further afield.

Indeed, Boris Johnson has lavished praise on the two foreign-born nurses who saved his life.

And yet, this week, the UK Government pressed ahead with its new Immigration Bill.

The proposed points-based system means that you’d have to earn £25,600 to get a visa.

Hospital cleaners and porters don’t earn that. Nor do carers.

Indeed many nurses – and even junior doctors – don’t meet that threshold.

So, the folk now lauded as heroes are being told they don’t deserve a visa to stay.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they’ve also been told that – as ‘foreigners’ – in order to use the very NHS in which they work, they’ll have to pay £624 from October.

And, if NHS porters or cleaners die on duty, the UK Government said this week that their families won’t be allowed to stay, and will have to leave their home and the country their loved ones served with such dedication.

An online video by London-based, Syria-born hospital cleaner Hassan Akkad is going viral. Straight from his shift in a Covid-19 ward, he addresses Boris Johnson directly, and says: "I’ve been enjoying your clapping", but "you’ve decided to exclude us from the bereavement scheme, so that if I die fighting the coronavirus, my partner isn’t allowed an indefinite leave to remain".

It’s beyond callous. And, as I write, it seems the UK Government appears to be succumbing to the pressure to execute a U-turn.

So, maybe in the coming weeks: less clapping outside No. 10 and more compassion within. I think it’s what the country wants.