Watch: Prince William makes first appearance since revealing coronavirus battle
Prince William has made his first virtual appearance since his secret battle with coronavirus earlier this year was revealed.
William, 38, introduced a new award at The Fire Fighters Charity’s Spirit of Fire Awards ceremony, an annual event celebrating the emergency service workers.
The Duke of Cambridge awarded the new Special Recognition Award for Excellence in the Field of Mental Health, a gong added to the list for this year.
He presented it to Shilla Patel, inclusion manager at the London Fire Brigade, who launched United Minds, the brigade’s first mental health support network.
The second in line to the throne made no mention of his battle with COVID-19, which is reported to have left him short of breath.
In the pre-recorded message, William said: “This year, the outbreak of Covid-19 has presented a unique challenge for all emergency responders, who have had to adapt to new ways of working whilst continuing to save lives and help those in need, day-in day-out.
“This is what makes the achievements that we are celebrating tonight all the more extraordinary.”
He added: “It is more important than ever that those on the frontline know where they can turn to for support.
“The work of The Fire Fighters Charity, and all of the organisations who support our blue light services, is central to ensuring the long-term health and wellbeing of our emergency responders.”
The Duke of Cambridge praised Patel for the network she launched, which aimed to break the stigma around asking for help and support for mental health issues.
He said Patel had received support herself, which helped her open up.
“Since then, she has made it her mission to help her colleagues feel able to do the same.
“So congratulations, Shilla. It is because of the dedication of people like you that we can continue to break down barriers and ensure that everybody receives the support they need.
“And to all tonight’s nominees and winners, thank you once again for all that you do,” he said.
Father-of-three William has been criticised for keeping his coronavirus diagnosis a secret during the early stages of the first UK lockdown.
The prince was said to be concerned about alarming the nation, as his father Prince Charles had tested positive for Covid-19, and so had Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Watch: Prince William tested positive for coronavirus in April
Charles, 71, spent a week in self-isolation in Birkhall, in Scotland, but had minor symptoms and worked throughout. He has since revealed that he had lost his sense of taste.
Johnson had to be taken into hospital where he was in intensive care.
Mental health has been a key area of royal work for the duke and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge.
They launched ‘Our Frontline’ in April, a package of mental health support and guidance for those who had to continue working in key areas while the UK was in lockdown in the Spring.
The Spirit of Fire Awards are usually held in person, with a reception in Downing Street, but went online this year for the first time.
Read more: How well do you know the UK Royal Family?
The Fire Fighters Charity chief executive, Dr Jill Tolfrey, said of the ceremony: “We were honoured to once again welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge to The Fire Fighters Charity, this time to open the Spirit of Fire Awards and to announce the winner of our Special Recognition Award for Excellence in the Field of Mental Health.
“Spirit of Fire is always a special occasion and this year, as we were unable to celebrate in person, I hope that marking the achievements of our incredible and very deserving supporters online – with the help of The Duke and our celebrity guests – provided a ray of sunshine for the fire services community at this difficult time.
“On behalf of the whole charity, my congratulations and immense gratitude go to all our nominees and winners.”
Other awards were presented by Brian May CBE, Michael Sheen OBE, Dame Julie Walters DBE, Clare Balding OBE and others.