Crown Princess Mary spoke at Monday’s opening of the 70th World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Europe’s session, where she discussed how COVID-19 has affected the world.
Meeting virtually due to lockdowns and restrictions, Crown Princess Mary’s remarks were delivered via video link. She told guests that COVID-19 has proven to be “a tough teacher, testing us when we didn’t expect it and making us pay for our missteps.”
She continued, “I am sure that you, as I, have experienced uncertainty, worry and sadness in recent months, as we try to find meaning in rapidly changing events, as we are unable to follow the familiar patterns of daily life, and as we are prevented from spending time with friends and loved ones.”
Crown Princess Mary also spoke of her regard for health care workers, and the spotlight they have found themselves in since the pandemic began. “[T]here can be no health care without the health workforce. Health workers are the backbone of our health services. These brave individuals have put themselves in danger to serve their fellow citizens,” she said.
“They have worked around the clock to respond to the pandemic and to keep other essential health and care services operating. They have and have earned, even more so our deepest gratitude and respect, and they deserve our unwavering support.”
And speaking of the collective response to the pandemic, Crown Princess Mary noted: “For many, the psychological, emotional, social and economic costs of the pandemic will be felt for years to come. The pandemic has made even more clear the health inequities and areas of weakness that exist in our Region. But – while we have certainly been tested and taught these past months, we have also had the opportunity to learn a great deal collectively.”
Of the work of nurses and midwives—this year being designated the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife—Crown Princess Mary said that they had been “taking on increasingly advanced and specialized roles, leading teams, conducting research, influencing and implementing policy, and educating the next generation. Through the COVID-19 emergency and beyond, we must invest in them, and support them to reach their full potential.”
Finally, speaking of her own areas of interest within the healthcare field, Crown Princess Mary spoke about maternal health and immunisations, especially the need for special care once a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes widely available.
Crown Princess Mary then ended her speech, saying:
“As this group gathers virtually to map the way forward, I hope that we all have the humility to be taught and the openness to learn – from what we have experienced individually and collectively during this pandemic, and from each other. The path ahead may seem daunting. The challenges we face are, indeed, great.
“But I have faith in the dedication and bravery of our health workers, and in the commitment and creativity of our health leaders and decision-makers – in all of you. I look forward with great anticipation to coming together at the next Regional Committee – hopefully in person – and to listening, learning and finding inspiration from each other.
“Working together to make the world a safer and healthier place for everyone is the most fitting of legacies to honour those we have lost as a result of this virus, and an invaluable gift to the children of the future.”
The 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe wraps up on today.