The Duchess of Cornwall has said everyone will have to keep their “fingers crossed” the country does not experience a second wave of coronavirus as she thanked frontline health and emergency workers for their efforts.
Camilla expressed her concerns as she met firefighters, medical staff and paramedics during her first solo public event since the lockdown, and heard their stories about working through Covid-19.
At the end of the visit to Swindon fire station, the duchess told the group: “Just before I go, I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done throughout this pandemic – I don’t know, we just have to keep our fingers crossed that we don’t see the second wave.
“But I think it’s lovely to see how everybody’s working together.”
The royal family has been returning to public duties as lockdown restrictions have eased and on Sunday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toasted the 72nd birthday of the NHS at a tea party in Norfolk for frontline workers.
Health and emergency service workers had gathered at the fire station to meet the duchess and Ben Ansell, chief fire officer of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, introduced her to local firefighters.
Camilla chatted to station manager Sam Legg-Bagg and praised the commitment of his crews, saying: “We couldn’t have done without you – thank you very much.”
Crews have been responding to call-outs throughout the pandemic, but firefighters trained in driving emergency vehicles and first aid have been relieving the pressure on paramedics by driving ambulances alongside a clinician.
Firefighters from the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service have driven ambulances in 716 of more than 3,000 incidents that South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has responded to.
During the visit, which was staged in the open air at the back of the fire station surrounded by engines, the duchess praised fire crews who changed roles to support paramedics, saying: “It’s one of these things, everybody has pulled together, which is so important – I take my hat off to you all.”
Later, Camilla helped to pack the 1,000th food parcel – destined for a person sheltering in lockdown – when she visited the civic offices of Swindon Borough Council.
The box was packed with staples for the week from a loaf of bread, milk and apples to vegetables – and is part of the local authority’s efforts to support vulnerable residents.
In the gardens of the civic offices, the duchess also met staff and volunteers from the council’s Live Well Hub, who have played a pivotal role in supporting residents during the coronavirus pandemic.
They have made thousands of welfare telephone calls to residents, supported patients who have been discharged from hospital and delivered medication to shielding residents who have no family support network.