Prince William joined the digital Emergency Services Festival of Thanksgiving, also known as the 999 Festival on Friday. The festival commemorates thousands of emergency responders, who have died in the line of duty. It was scheduled to be held in Belfast Cathedral, but was due to the coronavirus pandemic, the public event was cancelled.
The Duke of Cambridge praised the emergency services for "their hard work, your determination and your courage," in a heartfelt video message on behalf of himself and Kate Middleton. The 38-year-old royal participated in the event virtually from his country home, Anmer Hall in Norfolk.
"This year, more than ever, we have been repeatedly reminded of the sacrifices made by all those in the emergency responder community, as they worked tirelessly to protect us against Covid-19 and keep the country going in the most challenging circumstances," said Prince William.
The duke worked as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance between 2015 and 2017. "Having had the privilege of working alongside emergency responders, I've always been struck by the remarkable can-do attitude, in the face of even the gravest of emergencies. They showcase the very best that our country has to offer, and this is never more apparent than at times like these," he said.
"Tragically, some will pay the ultimate price as a result of their efforts in the line of duty, while others will experience lasting effects on their physical health or mental well-being," William said about the impact of their job on frontline workers.
"On behalf of my family, I want to thank you all. Your hard work, your determination and your courage are tremendous source of pride for your country and we will be forever grateful for all that you do," he concluded.
Tom Scholes-Fogg, founder and CEO of the 999 Festival, said that they couldn't let this year go by without honouring the country's 999 heroes. "We are incredibly honoured that HRH The Duke of Cambridge, the First Ministers and Health Secretary agreed to participate in this special online programme," he added.
Over 300 members of the NHS and emergency services have tragically lost their lives after contracting coronavirus whilst on duty.