Prince William and Kate Middleton are on their first trip together aboard the royal train, on a journey across Britain to say thank you to workers on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus.
As the country prepares to roll out the first doses of the vaccine this week, Will and Kate will do a three-day trip to speak to and thank nurses, aged-care workers, teachers and volunteers for their efforts during the pandemic.
“The Duke and Duchess are very much looking forward to shining a spotlight on the incredible work that has been done across the country … and sharing their gratitude on behalf of the nation,” a Kensington Palace spokesperson said.
The royal train has been out of action this year due to the pandemic, but is the Queen’s favourite mode of transport.
It’s usually reserved for the monarch, Philip and Charles, but Will and Kate get a special exemption this time around.
“This trip is their way of saying thank you, on behalf of the nation. They realise it’s been an incredibly tough and challenging year,” a palace source told the Mirror.
As their grandson tours the country, the Queen and Prince Philip are reportedly readying to receive the vaccine themselves.
The first rounds of the Pfizer vaccine will be given to aged-care and health workers, and those aged 80 and over.
At age 94 and 99 respectively, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh sit firmly in the at-risk category.
They’ll reportedly get the jab in the coming weeks – after ‘waiting their turn’ to avoid accusations of favouritism – as a way to encourage the rest of the country to take up the program.
It follows news that the Queen and Prince Philip will shun their traditional large family Christmas at Norfolk Estate, instead doing a low-key Christmas at Windsor, in a bid to encourage COVID safety in Britain.
There’s also rumours Prince Charles and William will be public faces of the vaccine – both having tested positive in April – which, if it unfolds, will be a rare move for the royals.
The royal family usually shies away from anything political, and given debate and conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine, this would err on the side of political, royal advisers say.
Whether or not the princes add star power to Britain’s coronavirus campaign, it’s clear the world will be watching.
Around 800,000 doses of the vaccine, in super-cold containers, are expected to be delivered and in place for the start of the immunisation programme at 50 hospital hubs on Tuesday (local time).
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also begin their vaccination rollouts the same day.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly dubbed Tuesday as “V-Day” – a nod to British triumphs in World War II.
The roll-out is being closely monitored by authorities from other countries, with governments hoping to learn from the successes and failures of the program and adjust their own virus plans accordingly.