Prince William is changing his tune about the coronavirus. It was just a few weeks ago that William joked with a paramedic about the perceived media hype around the illness during a royal tour of Ireland.
“By the way, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are spreading coronavirus!” he joked. “Sorry! We’re keeping an eye on that, so do tell us if we need to stop!”
Since then, the seriousness of the illness has set in, especially as it has now impacted the royal family. On Thursday, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived at Windsor Castle to begin self-isolation. Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are also self-isolating in Clarence House but continuing to work with staff remotely. All four are considered especially vulnerable due to their ages.
As a result, William and Kate are being asked to step up. The couple visited the London Ambulance Service 111 control room in Croydon to learn more about the coronavirus response. The visit was positioned as a way to boost morale for one group among the many on the front lines of battling COVID-19.
“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,” William captioned the images from their visit on Instagram.
“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 – 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 continued.
“They need our support as much as we need theirs. 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.”
The messaging is great. However, some royal fans have noted that like many officials, William and Kate are not practicing what they preach. Some have pointed out that they could have offered support to the call center remotely, in accordance with social distancing, instead of a physical visit.
While there, the couple did offer an abundance of support. “It’s amazing,” Kate noted to one call handler. “You’re doing such a great job bringing everyone together and providing that, the support system for the whole public.”
“There’s a lot of people out there who want to help,” William later pointed out. “A lot of work is closing down elsewhere so people are going to want to come and volunteer, people want to help, people want to be there to support you guys, and everyone knows what a fantastic job you guys are doing.”
William and Kate are also believed to be more likely to transmit the illness to others, even if it isn’t affecting them personally. This is due to their recent travel and the heightened number of people they come in contact with at any given time.
Of course, we have to assume the royal family is being carefully monitored and that the couple wouldn’t be allowed out if that chance was there, but you can never be certain because of the royal family’s choosy transparency.
Some also pointed out that the visit could have been a distraction for workers of the busy call center. They pointed out to William and Kate how quickly call numbers jumped from moment to moment. Members of the public couldn’t help but wonder whether their time was better spent explaining the system to the couple or actually tending to those calling in.
Others believed the visit put William and Kate at unnecessary risk. It seems like public sentiment is leaning toward the couple not continuing to make in-person appearances, both for the safety of those they meet with and themselves. However, Vanity Fair contributing royal reporter Katie Nicholl notes this as the beginning of the couple’s coronavirus outreach.
It also hasn’t been lost on royal fans still reeling from the Sussex drama that all of this has been accepted by British tabloids with little criticism. Harry and Meghan would certainly be bashed for making the comments William made. The same can be said of their visit.
Of course, others argue that William and Kate wouldn’t have so much on their plates if it weren’t for Harry and Meghan. The finger-pointing between fans of the two couples shows no signs of stopping.
In addition to possible added royal duties, William and Kate also have another added task on their plates. With schools around the UK closing down, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are now home. Like many children, they will be learning remotely.
“While details around the children’s schooling will always remain private, HELLO! understands that Prince George and Princess Charlotte will be taught their lessons through online learning platforms,” explained royal correspondent Danielle Stacey.
“We know that education is extremely important to the Duchess of Cambridge through her early years work and no doubt, Kate will be doing everything to ensure that her children have the resources they need during this period.”
It will be interesting to see whether or not William and Kate continue to do public appearances. The couple have themselves and their three children to think of. They also have a responsibility to the country they will one day preside over. Like so many facets of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, there are no easy answers. We hope their health continues to hold up regardless of what comes next.