LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital to thank doctors, nurses and other health staff for their hard work in the coronavirus pandemic.
The royal hospital visit came shortly before news that Charles's 99-year-old father, Prince Philip, had been admitted to a London hospital as a precautionary measure for an illness that was not COVID-related.
Charles, who had his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month, spoke of his "great joy" at meeting some of those who work behind the scenes in Britain's National Health Service (NHS).
"You are an amazing team if I may say so, and we are very lucky indeed to have you," he said before he unveiled a plaque thanking staff for their "incredible efforts".
Charles, 72, explained that he was the same age as the NHS, much revered in Britain for providing healthcare which is free at point of use. He made gathered staff laugh when he noted that it has fared better than he: "I'm gradually falling apart," he said.
The prince tested positive for the coronavirus during the first wave of the pandemic in March last year but said he was fortunate to have suffered only relatively mild symptoms and returned to good health.
"I hope you continue to have increasing success in battling against this abominable virus but you're winning by the sound of it and that is the great thing," he told staff.
(Reporting by Sarah Young and Paul Sandle, Editing by Alistair Smout)