Prince Charles and Camilla Make First In-Person Royal Visit of the Year to Thank Vaccine Volunteers

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are thanking volunteers fighting against the coronavirus pandemic in their first outing of 2021.

The royal couple visited Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on Wednesday to meet healthcare workers and volunteers taking part in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccinations. Prince Charles, 72, and Camilla, 73 — who recently received their first coronavirus vaccinations — wore surgical face masks during the outing, where they were shown around by Chief Pharmacist Inderjit Singh.

"Ladies and Gentleman, the Secretary of State mentioned just now that the National Health Service was 72 years old, which happens to coincide exactly with the same age as I am," Prince Charles said in a speech. "And the great thing is that the NHS has done a great deal better I can assure you than I have, as I am gradually falling apart."

"I know, over the last year, it must be absolutely exhausting for so many of you," he continued. "But I know the NHS is such an enormous team and there are masses of people who are unsung and unseen heroes and heroines."

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After being confined to virtual calls and video messages over the past few months, Charles and Camilla's hospital visit marks the first in-person engagement for any member of the British royal family in the new year.

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The outing also comes after Prince Charles' father, Prince Philip, 99, was admitted to King Edward VII hospital in London on Tuesday evening on the advice of his doctor after "feeling unwell," Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

He left Windsor Castle, where he has been staying with his wife, Queen Elizabeth, since November amid lockdown in the U.K., late on Tuesday and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days.

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Palace sources stress that this was not an emergency admission and that Philip walked into the hospital unaided.

He had been feeling unwell and the doctor was called. His hospital stay is expected to be "purely precautionary," a source adds. The illness is not COVID-19-related.

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