Prince William and Kate Middleton visited the London Ambulance Service 111 control room in Croydon on Thursday. There, they met with staff members who have been fielding NHS 111 calls from the public and thanked them for their hard work amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
"The last few weeks, and more recent days, have been understandably concerning with the continuing spread of coronavirus," the Duke of Cambridge said in a statement. "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. They need our support as much as we need theirs. That is why Catherine and I were proud to visit staff working at NHS 111, to pass on our personal thanks, along with those of my grandmother and father, to staff working around the clock to provide care and advice to those that need it most."
The control room, which serves southeast London, has been experiencing increased demand on the NHS 111 service. According to a press release shared by the Palace, the London Ambulance Service, which takes calls from both the control rooms in Croydon and in Barking, have been receiving at least five times the usual rate of calls. In addition, it runs two 999 control rooms, which has been receiving nearly 8,000 calls a day.
"Our staff are working incredibly hard in all four of our call centers, taking more than twice as many calls as usual," London Ambulance Service CEO Garrett Emmerson said in a statement. "It has therefore been an incredible boost to staff to be able to meet with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Their Royal Highnesses spoke to some of our 111 call handlers and clinicians who are extraordinarily busy as we work hard to support Londoners and the wider NHS."
William and Kate also learned about ways members of the public can help alleviate this kind of pressure by visiting the nhs.uk/coronavirus website before contacting 111.
"It was also brilliant to see the great online tools for those with mild symptoms or worries." William continued in his statement. "All of us have a part to play if we're going to protect the most vulnerable. 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."
According to The Daily Mail's royal correspondent Rebecca English, William and Kate frequently used hand sanitizer during the visit and did not shake hands. She also reported they made a "conscious effort to socially distance themselves from people."
In addition, English shared footage of William meeting former Buckingham Palace telephonist Paula White. Per English's report, White claimed his mother, the late Princess Diana, used to sneak in to sit with them and take a few calls.
Kate wore a pink Marks and Spencer suit for the visit while William donned a suit jacket, sweater and button-up shirt.
The visit came just a day after William offered the public words of encouragement and spoke about the National Emergencies Trust in a video.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shared words of support, as well.
In addition, Queen Elizabeth, who is currently in Windsor with Prince Philip, released a statement in which she spoke about how many people and families are "entering a period of great concern and uncertainty."
"We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them," Her Majesty said. "At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation's history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal. We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals - today and in the coming days, weeks and months. Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part."