The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited an ambulance station in Newham, east London, to support the emergency staffers working the COVID-19 frontlines

By Simon Perry
March 18, 2021 09:01 AM
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Kate Middleton and Prince William are continuing with their royal duties amid the ongoing fallout from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's interview with Oprah Winfrey

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed to an ambulance station in east London on Thursday morning to speak to crews and paramedics about the intense challenges of working during one of the most difficult times in the service's history

Last week, William spoke out about Meghan and Harry's claims of racism in the royal family — telling a reporter, "We are not a racist family" — but on Thursday, the prince and Kate focused on giving their support to the staffers at the center, which is London's second-busiest station.

The royal couple joined paramedic Jahrin Khan in the Station's Wellbeing Garden as she told them how she has coped with the pressures of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the impact of having to isolate from her family. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Newham ambulance station
Prince William and Kate Middleton with first responders last week
| Credit: PA Images
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Newham ambulance station
Kate Middleton and Prince William on Thursday
| Credit: PA Images

In a surprise move, they were able to greet Khan's father on the phone from Bangladesh as she called him and introduced him to the royal couple.

William, who spent much of yesterday on the phone with medical teams around the country, and Kate also heard more about the mental health and wellbeing support provided to staff at the station, including drop-in sessions and wellbeing spaces, alongside some of the wider initiatives provided by the London Ambulance Service, which includes their fleet of Wellbeing Tea Trucks.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Newham ambulance station
Kate Middleton at the ambulance station on Thursday
| Credit: PA Images

Paramedic Shani Smith spoke to William, 38, and Kate, 39, about how she has been helping to run one of the trucks over the last 12 months. The couple was also told about how she has used her mental health training to provide peer support to her colleagues. 

The tea trucks travel to hospitals and control centers across London serving comforting hot drinks and snacks to ambulance staff and volunteers. It provides an opportunity for the emergency workers to take a moment to pause and refresh. 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, William and Kate have been supporting frontline health workers. The London Ambulance Service has received $140,000 of funding from NHS Charities Together, of which Their Royal Highnesses are joint patrons. Their Royal Foundation has helped set up Our Frontline, a one-to-one mental health resource that offers staffers access help and advice as they tackle difficult and often-harrowing cases.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to Newham ambulance station
Prince William and Kate Middleton
| Credit: PA Images

In November, William, who, as a former air ambulance helicopter pilot, regularly witnessed first-hand the critical work first responders do, recognized how the COVID-19 crisis has "presented a unique challenge for all emergency" staffers. In December, William and Kate toured Britain on the royal train as they extended their thanks to health workers, teachers and other frontline staff for all they have done during the pandemic.

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The couple's visit on Thursday came as controversy has continued about the interview Meghan and Harry gave to Oprah Winfrey on March 7. As the royals and their staffs digested the various claims and counter-claims in the wake of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's sit-down, there was "anger," a palace source tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story: "There were genuinely mixed emotions and deep sorrow and shock there too."

Meghan and Oprah's friend Gayle King said on Tuesday's CBS This Morning that the Duchess of Sussex can support all the claims she made during the interview.

"Meghan has documents to back up everything that she said on Oprah's interview. Everything," King said.

Kate was last seen in public on Saturday, when she made a private visit to a memorial set up to remember Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman whose remains were found on Friday, over a week after she disappeared in London.

Kate placed flowers at the site in Clapham Common, an area near Everard's home in Brixton, where she was seen walking before her disappearance on March 3.

"She wanted to pay her respects to Sarah and her family," a royal source told PEOPLE. "She remembers what it felt like to walk around London at night."