Prince William and Kate stepped out Thursday to thank emergency workers on the front line of responding to the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom.
William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited the London Ambulance Service 111 control room in Croydon, England, to meet dispatchers who have been taking emergency calls from the public.
The control room has been receiving at least five times the usual rate of calls in its response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, as it is officially known, according to Kensington Palace.
“The last few weeks, and more recent days, have been understandably concerning with the continuing spread of coronavirus," Prince William told the National Health Service (NHS) 111 staff. "But it’s at times like this when we realize just how much the NHS represents the very best of our country and society – people from all backgrounds and walks of life with different experiences and skills, pulling together for the common good."
“Not only are NHS staff and emergency workers responding to the needs of the public, they – like the rest of us – are concerned about their families, friends and loved ones," he said, according to Kensington Palace. "They need our support as much as we need theirs."
"The last few weeks, and more recent days have been understandably concerning with the continuing spread of coronavirus. But it’s at times like this when we realise just how much the NHS represents the very best of our country and society." — The Duke of Cambridge #NHSthankyou pic.twitter.com/l1GWs8ggHH— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 20, 2020
William said he and Kate were there to offer not only their own personal thanks but also to express appreciation on behalf of William's father Prince Charles and his grandmother Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth left Buckingham Palace Thursday and traveled to Windsor Castle, where she and Prince Philip plan to say at least through Easter. The queen's earlier-than-planned departure is just one way the royals' lives have been affected by coronavirus, just as the outbreak is changing the daily lives of people around the globe.
Starting next week, William and Kate will be home schooling their two oldest children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. The siblings' private school Thomas's Battersea is switching to online learning as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all schools in the country will be closed until further notice.
William's cousin, Princess Beatrice, has been forced to modify plans for her May 29 wedding. Buckingham Palace has canceled several upcoming garden parties and also announced Friday it is postponing the ceremonial of the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, St. James' Palace and Windsor Castle until further notice.
Prince Harry's annual competition for wounded soldiers and veterans, the Invictus Games, has also been postponed. It was supposed to take place in May in The Hague, Netherlands, and Harry and his wife Duchess Meghan were scheduled to attend.
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will step down from their roles as working royals on March 31, but they could play a role in the royal family's response to the coronavirus alongside Prince William and Kate.
The two couples are below the age range that experts have deemed the most vulnerable for complications for coronavirus -- the elderly -- while Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, is 71 and Queen Elizabeth is 93.
"The Queen made it clear that her family is ready to play their part and I think we will see them very much do this as much as possible within the parameters of what is practical," said ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy. "Of course any large scale engagements or meeting the wider public will be out but this visit demonstrates that William and Kate are keen to continue to be visible throughout the crisis and will show their support in person where they can."
"It’s also a reminder here that the Cambridges are the most senior royals who are not considered at increased risk from the virus because of their age," she said.
William and Kate hand sanitising at a 111 call centre: spreading the word, one squirt at a time. pic.twitter.com/LbmzMRUa6U— Valentine Low (@valentinelow) March 20, 2020
Prince William on Thursday called on people to do their part to protect the people "the most vulnerable" to coronavirus.
“All of us have a part to play if we’re going to protect the most vulnerable," he said. "That means acting on the latest expert advice, staying home if we or those we live with have symptoms, and avoiding non-essential contact to help reduce the spread of the virus.”
Harry and Meghan earlier this week offered coronavirus help to the public via their Instagram account Sussex Royal.
The couple said they plan to share "information and resources to help all of us navigate the uncertainty: from posting accurate information and facts from trusted experts, to learning about measures we can take to keep ourselves and our families healthy, to working with organizations that can support our mental and emotional well-being."
Murphy noted that Harry and Meghan's agreement to step back as working royals was decided earlier this year, "before the landscape dramatically changed."
"They are using their social media to post updates and direct people to services but nothing they are doing is being flagged up on any of the royal social media accounts so it feels very separate to the rest of the family now," she said. "But we are in unprecedented times so whether they are brought back into the royal fold as things unfold can’t be ruled out."