Queen Elizabeth II has thanked healthcare workers on the front line of the fight against the coronavirus and told the British people they would overcome the outbreak if they stayed resolute in the face of lockdown and self-isolation.
In only the fifth televised address of her 68-year reign, Elizabeth on Sunday called on UK citizens to show the resolve of their forbears.
Coronavirus: Why do more people keep dying in the UK?
British Muslim nurse, doctor latest medical staff to die of virus
Nearly 1m Britons sign up for welfare benefits in two weeks
“Together, we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it,” the 93-year-old monarch said in the address from her Windsor Castle home where she is staying with her husband Prince Philip, 98.
“While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.”
The broadcast came hours after officials said the death toll in the United Kingdom from the virus had risen by 621 in the last 24 hours to 4,934 with high fatalities still expected in the next week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is among those in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, and the queen’s own son and heir Prince Charles, 71, has recovered after suffering mild symptoms of the virus.
Like many countries in Europe, the UK is in a state of virtual lockdown, with people told to stay at home unless it was essential to go out. Health Minister Matt Hancock said even stricter rules might be imposed if the current rules to curb the spread of the virus were flouted.
World War II spirit
Elizabeth thanked those who were staying at home, thereby helping to spare others from suffering the grief already felt by some families.
She also paid tribute to healthcare staff for their selfless work and commended the “heart-warming” stories of people across the Commonwealth, of which she is head, and beyond for delivering food and medicines to those who needed them.
Sunday’s address was an extremely rare event, as the queen usually only speaks to the nation in her annual televised Christmas Day message.
In order to ensure any risk to the elderly monarch herself was mitigated, it was filmed in a big room to ensure a safe distance between her and the cameraman, who wore gloves and a mask and was the only other person present.
Elizabeth said the situation reminded her of her first-ever broadcast in 1940, when she and her late sister Margaret spoke from Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes to escape bombing raids by Nazi German aircraft.
She said that in the future people could take pride in how they too had dealt with such a challenge and disruption to their lives.
“Those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any,” she said. “That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”
She even invoked the words of the famous song, We’ll Meet Again, by Vera Lynn from World War II which became a symbol of hope for Britons during the conflict.
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” she said. “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”