The Duke of Cambridge has told NHS nurses “there is a light at the end of the tunnel” and that the whole world needs a break in 2021 as he heralded their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
William and Kate spoke about the “good news” that the UK has begun its mass vaccination programme against the Covid-19 illness.
The duke and duchess travelled to Reading to meet nurses at the Royal Berkshire Hospital – their third stop of the day and penultimate one of their morale-boosting royal train tour.
William and Kate chatted with Sarah Lupai, an enteral nutrition clinical nurse specialist.
Ms Lupai, 38, said afterwards: “I said (I was) hoping 2021 will be a better year and it needs to be a better year and we really need a break.
“They said the whole world needs a break next year for everyone’s mental health and well-being.”
The Great British Bake Off team baked 3,000 cupcakes as a treat for the hospital staff to coincide with the royal visit.
Future queen Kate was born at the hospital in 1982 and Graham Sims, chairman of Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, greeted her with: “Welcome back.”
The royal couple paused to praise maternity nurses who had delivered three babies on Tuesday, with William saying during the outdoor engagement in the chilly December air: “Sorry it is so cold.”
He asked if they had been looking after their mental health and been able to see their families during the lockdown, telling them: “Keep going. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Speaking to a group of occupational therapists, William said: “You have all been doing good work. At least we have the good news today. Well done and thank you.”
Standing outside socially distanced in the car park, the royals also met a team of cancer nurses.
Kate said: “How are you all feeling, tired? I hope you have a good Christmas and some peace and quiet.”
She added: “I hope you know how we value you so much. The clapping is one of those things we wish we could keep going.”
The Cambridges were also treated to a performance by members of the Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra.
The band, who played Christmas songs, are supported by the organisation CultureMix, who have been funded through the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.