The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today headed to the vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey, on the National Day of Reflection, pausing to remember those who have lost their lives in the last year.
Prince William and Catherine headed to their wedding venue, just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, to see the pop-up vaccination centre at the 1000-year-old church.
At least 126,000 people have died as a result of the pandemic, with today also marking the one-year anniversary of the country’s first national lockdown.
Prince Charles has led the Royals acknowledging the day, as patron of Marie Curie; he recorded a video message.
Prince William and Catherine chatted to staff about their work in giving the local Westminster population their doses of the vaccine. Up to 2,000 doses a week have been given out this month.
The Duke of Cambridge commented: “I’m a while away yet until I get mine. But you’re getting there pretty fast so it won’t be long.”
“I’ve had plenty of vaccinations in my time. I get jabbed a lot,” he joked, almost certainly in reference to the plentiful royal tours abroad.
More than 30 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine so far, since the scheme began in January.
Of course, talk also covered working from such a historic venue, one of over 1600 vaccination centres across the UK. Many large churches and cathedrals have opened their doors to offer vaccinations, including Lichfield and Lincoln.
Pippa Nightingale, chief nurse for north west London, said staff told the couple that it was a great advantage to work in buildings like the Westminster Abbey: “We don’t have to worry about ventilation, we don’t have to worry about social distancing because they have got big spaces. The buildings really lend themselves to this.”
“They were very aware of the vaccine hesitancy, and how that might be more challenging in the younger age groups.”
The Duchess spoke to Sandy Thwaites, 61, a former nurse who came out of retirement to help the vaccine programme.
“She [Catherine] asked if the public were finding it difficult, whether they were anxious. I said they are quite anxious, a lot of questions especially concerning clots.
“They come armed with quite a lot of questions. Some are crying, some are relieved, some are happy. But no-one has turned away.”
Dr Sheila Neogi, who is clinical lead for the Abbey and a GP in Pimlico, commented: “The Duchess was very concerned and thoughtful about the staff, and the impact it has had on people. She said ‘It’s so nice that we are getting towards the end of this – you’ve all worked so hard’.”
Wearing face masks, they took a private moment of reflection took in the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the spiritual heart of the abbey. They stood in silence with the Dean of Westminster, who then delivered a series of short prayers.
William lit a candle on the altar in the Shrine, while the Duchess placed fresh daffodils upon it.
The shrine is where also where the Duke and Duchess signed the register on their wedding day, away from the cameras; April marks 10 years of their marriage.