Duke of Cambridge praises courage of emergency workers in face of coronavirus

4 September 2020, 16:28

Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

The Duke of Cambridge has praised the courage and "selfless dedication" of Britain's emergency service workers, along with their sacrifices in the face of coronavirus.

Speaking at the Emergency Services Festival of Thanksgiving - which honours staff in the sector - William expressed praise for being a "tremendous source of pride" for the country, particularly at such "challenging" times.

He said: "This year, more than ever, we have been repeatedly reminded of the sacrifices made by all those in the emergency response community as they work tirelessly to protect us against COVID-19 and keep the country going in the most challenging circumstances."

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The annual event, which is also known as the 999 Festival, is usually held on the Friday closest to 9 September and commemorates all responders who have died in the line of duty.

This year alone, more than 300 NHS and other emergency workers have died after they were believed to have contracted the virus at work.

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William, who was once an air ambulance pilot himself, added that he was always "struck" by responders' "remarkable can-do attitude in the face of even the gravest emergencies.

"They showcase the very best our country has to offer and this never more apparent than at times like these.

"Tragically, some will pay the ultimate price as result of their efforts in the line of duty, while others will experience lasting effects on their physical health or mental wellbeing."

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The multi-faith festival was originally due to take place in Belfast Cathedral, but was instead moved to a digital format and was broadcast on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

It included music from the Blue Light Choir, videos from the chairs of the Police, Fire and Ambulance Councils and the director of Her Majesty's Coastguard.

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 were also set to speak.

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In his own video address, the duke stressed the responsibility everyone owes to supporting the emergency service community and to remember "the many sacrifices made by both them and their families, which is why today's service is so important."

He added: "On behalf of my family, I want to thank you all. Your hard work, your determination and your courage are a tremendous source of pride for our country, and we will be forever grateful for all that you do."

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Tom Scholes-Fogg, founder and chief executive of the 999 Festival, said: "Given events in our country and across the globe we simply could not let this year go by without honouring our 999 heroes.

"The emergency services is about partnership, and events such as the 999 Festival where the NHS and emergency services are together as equal partners is important."

Those wishing to watch the festival can visit the festival's website at 999festival.org.uk and click on the social media links in the right hand corner of the page.