The Countess of Wessex was joined by television duo Ant and Dec on Tuesday morning as Her Royal Highness officially opened the new NHS Nightingale Hospital North East in Sunderland.
The 55-year-old royal joined proceedings virtually via videolink from her home in Bagshot Park.
In a speech to commemorate the opening, the Countess said: “Sunderland has been close to my heart for some time, which is why I am so pleased to have been invited to be talking to you, albeit virtually, today.
“Your determination, teamwork and skill has resulted in a hospital that will help to provide care to anyone in need.”
The Countess of Wessex has sent a video message to officially open the new NHS Nightingale Hospital North East in Sunderland. pic.twitter.com/GwBMcxxZCW
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) May 5, 2020
“Since 2003 when I became Patron of Sunderland Football Club’s Foundation of Light Charity, I have enjoyed many visits to one of our country’s friendliest cities. And only just over a year ago I had the honour of opening the Beacon of Light complex which is helping so many people.”
Sophie continued, paying tribute to those who have helped to build the new hospital, saying: “Your determination, teamwork and skill has resulted in a hospital that will help to provide care to anyone in need.
“You have demonstrated that we are meeting the challenge of COVID-19 head on. On behalf of the nation and the North East community who you stand ready to serve, thank you for making all of this possible.”
The Nightingale Hospital North East was built in just a matter of weeks and can treat up to 460 patients with coronavirus.
An array of famous faces also joined in with the opening, including television presenters Ant & Dec, cricketer Ben Stokes and former athlete Baroness Grey-Thompson.
Dec said: “The amazing hospitals and the staff in the NHS in the North East have been pulling out all the stops to cope in these most difficult times and we hope and pray that, thanks to everybody staying at home and keeping safe distances and washing their hands, that we will keep the dreadful effect of this virus to a minimum.”
Ant added: “Even if it isn’t needed, it’s been a magnificent feat to pull this together and the speed of the transformation will be an enduring symbol of what the great people of this area are capable of.”
The Countess of Wessex has given her support to a wide range of organisations helping people during the coronavirus outbreak. Last month, Sophie packed and distributed food supplies for NHS staff at Frimley Park Hospital and also cooked food for Health Service staff when she volunteered at the kitchens of hospitality firm, Rhubard.
HRH has also helped pack food parcels which will be dispatched to the most vulnerable members of society during the ongoing public health emergency.