The Queen has spoken out about her bout of Covid, saying it left her ‘very tired and exhausted’ in a call with front-line workers. The monarch, 95, tested positive for Covid in February and, despite having what Buckingham Palace said were ‘mild cold-like symptoms’ she was determined to carry out what duties she could.
She later overcame the virus and described the experience during a virtual call with the Royal London Hospital on Wednesday, to mark the official opening of the medical institution’s Queen Elizabeth Unit. In a call with medical staff, the Queen listened to their stories of coping with the huge influence of Covid patients and their experience during the pandemic.
It comes as the Queen has reportedly been having mobility issues of late having pulled out of attending an annual Easter church service next week for the first time in more than 50 years as she could not guarantee her attendance.
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Around 800 people from across north-east London were treated at the 155-bed Queen Elizabeth Unit, built in five weeks to meet the demand instead of the normal time period of five months, and the Queen hailed the Dunkirk spirit that inspired the construction team . Speaking to former Covid patient Asef Hussain, and his wife Shamina, the Queen said about the virus: “I’m glad that you’re getting better…It does leave one very tired and exhausted, doesn’t it? This horrible pandemic. It’s not a nice result.”
Mr Hussain was the third member of his family to be admitted to hospital with Covid after they became ill towards the end of December 2020. His brother died first and then his father, who passed away while Mr Hussain was on a ventilator.
The Queen was told his wife called the ambulance after he had struggled to catch his breath. He was eventually put on a ventilator for seven weeks at the Royal London Hospital, and is still recovering, having recently dispensed with his wheelchair but now using a portable oxygen machine.
Mrs Hussain told the Queen at one point there were 500 friends and family from across the world on a Zoom call praying for her husband, and the monarch lightened the mood and made the couple smile when she asked: “So you have a large family, or a large influence on people?”
Mireia Lopez Rey Ferrer, a senior sister who has worked at the hospital in Whitechapel, east London, since 2008, told the Queen about their commitment to the patients. She said: “As nurses we made sure that they were not alone. We held their hands, we wiped their tears and we provided comfort. It felt at times that we were running a marathon with no finish line.”
Polly Fitch, a clinical psychologist who ran the unit’s family support team, described how information was put beside patients’ beds so medical staff knew their backgrounds and Imam Faruq Siddiqi, a chaplain who is part of the hospital’s multi-faith team, said his presence was viewed with a sense of “hope” by families.
At the end of the call, the the Queen chatted to the construction team who created the unit on the hospital’s 14th and 15th floors in quick time, and told them: “It is very interesting, isn’t it, when there is some very vital thing, how everybody works together and pulls together – marvelous isn’t it?”
When the team hailed the “Dunkirk spirit” that inspired them, the monarch replied: “Thank goodness it still exists.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.