Prince Charles delivers Windrush message: Black community has been hit 'particularly hard' by coronavirus

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

Prince Charles has reflected on the higher coronavirus death rate in the black community as he thanked the Windrush generation for their work in the NHS.

Charles, who recovered from coronavirus himself in March, noted that the community has been “hit particularly hard” as he spoke of the “debt of gratitude” the nation owes the Windrush generation.

Monday marks 72 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex, bearing around 500 people from Jamaica.

In a video message shared online, Charles, 71, said: “Today offers an opportunity to express the debt of gratitude we owe to that first Windrush generation for accepting the invitation to come to Britain, and, above all, to recognise the immeasurable difference that they, their children and their grandchildren, have made to so many aspects of our public life, to our culture and to every sector of our economy.”

Prince Charles talking with some of the original settlers from the Caribbean as he marked the 50th anniversary of Windrush. (Getty Images)

He added: “Now I hesitate to single out any area of this activity but, as coronavirus lockdown begins to ease, I did just want to say a particular word about our National Health Service, of which people of African and Caribbean descent have been an indispensable part since its very beginning.

“At the same time, I know that the black community has been hit particularly hard by this pernicious virus.

“To those who have lost their loved ones in such heartbreaking circumstances, when it has been impossible for them to comfort their relatives in hospital, I can only convey my most profound sympathy; and to everyone on the front line who has been put under such intense pressure over the last three months and risen heroically to the unprecedented challenge, I want to say on behalf of all of us how inordinately proud we are of them and the way they carry out their onerous duties.”

Prince Charles meets veteran Allan Wilmot (centre) amongst other veterans during his visit to the Black Cultural Archives in 2017. (Getty Images)

Read more: Prince William shares sweet moment with his three kids in new birthday photos – taken by Kate

A Public Health England report earlier this month found that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people were more likely to die after contracting COVID-19 than their white counterparts.

The report found people of Bangladeshi ethnicity were twice as likely to die as those who are white British.

To mark the anniversary of the Empire Windrush’s docking, home secretary Priti Patel announced a new Windrush Cross-Government Working Group with Bishop Derek Webley to “right the wrongs” of the scandal that unfolded in recent years.

Many people who had the right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean.

Prince Charles and Camilla are shown items of historical significance by Natalie Fiawoo at the archives. (Getty Images)

Read more: Prince Charles shares unseen photo of Prince William to mark his 38th birthday

Only 5% of claims under the government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme have been paid out, with 60 people given £362,996 in the first year.

According to Dawn Hill, who chairs the Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives, there are about 12,000 people who had their British citizenship re-established and are owed compensation.

As well as the message, Clarence House shared a link to the Black Cultural Archives, which has a series of podcasts, storytelling and educational resources about Windrush.