Prince William praises emergency service workers for 'keeping country going' during coronavirus pandemic

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3 mins read

Prince William paid tribute to emergency service workers in an online ceremony which honours those who have died in the line of duty.

William joined the annual Emergency Services Festival of Thanksgiving, which is also called the 999 Festival, for an online version of the event, which had been scheduled to be held at Belfast Cathedral.

Instead it was broadcast on social media, though the original start time of 2pm was missed because of technical issues.

More than 300 NHS and other emergency workers have died after contracting COVID-19 while on duty during the pandemic.

The duke, 38, said: “This year, more than ever, we have been repeatedly reminded of the sacrifices made by all those in the emergency responder community, as they worked tirelessly to protect us against COVID-19 and keep the country going in the most challenging circumstance.”

He also said he was struck by the “can do attitude” of emergency responders he had worked with.

He added: “They showcase the very best that our country has to offer, and this is never more apparent than at times like these.”

Prince William meeting firefighters and paramedics after the Grenfell Tower fire. He has thanked those involved in the coronavirus response in an online ceremony. (Getty Images)
Prince William meeting firefighters and paramedics after the Grenfell Tower fire. He has thanked those involved in the coronavirus response in an online ceremony. (Getty Images)

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He went on to say: “Tragically, some will pay the ultimate price as a result of their efforts in the line of duty.

“Other will experience lasting effects on their physical health or mental wellbeing.

“We all have a responsibility to do what we can to support this community and to remember their efforts to keep us safe.”

He ended by thanking them on behalf of his family.

As a former air ambulance pilot, William has been focused on the emergency services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

William is a former air ambulance pilot - pictured here at London's Air Ambulance in January 2019. (AFP)
William is a former air ambulance pilot - pictured here at London's Air Ambulance in January 2019. (AFP)

Early on, he and his wife Kate launched Our Frontline, a support system providing mental health help to the thousands of people who continued to work outside of the home during the pandemic.

He has also spoken on several occasions about the pressure those who work in emergency services feel, including cautioning against using the word ‘hero’.

William is a volunteer on Shout, the 24/7 text based messaging service he launched alongside Kate, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, through the Royal Foundation.

The annual service is always held on the Friday closest to 9 September, and this year featured music from the Blue Light Choir, as well as messages from First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

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After the song by the choir and the messages, wreaths were laid in Manchester, Glasgow, Rhyl, and Belfast by emergency service representatives.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote a message for the service programme, in which he said: “It takes a very special kind of person to put your life on the line for a complete stranger. Yet that is what we see day in, day out from the remarkable men and women of our emergency services.

“You protect us from harm, deliver us from danger, and tend to us in our hours of need. And you do so without hesitation or complaint – if we dial 999, we know you will be there for us.”