The Prince of Wales has hailed the “spectacular and almost unbelievable feat” of building the NHS Nightingale Hospital, as he says: “In this dark time, it will be a shining light.”

The Prince, undertaking the first “virtual” plaque unveiling in British royal history, appeared via video link to officially open the building.

Saying it was an “example of how the impossible is made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity”, he spoke of the “immense debt of gratitude” the nation owes all those working tirelessly to fight coronavirus. 

Appearing on a screen from his home at Birkhall, Scotland, in front of a backdrop of family photographs, he said he was “one of the lucky ones” who suffered Covid-19 with only mild symptoms.

“For some it will be a much harder journey,” he said. “I am therefore so relieved that everyone can now have the reassurance that they will get all the necessary technical care that they may need and every chance to return to a normal life. 

“This hospital therefore offers us an intensely practical message of hope for those who will need it most at this time of national suffering.

“Let us also pray Ladies and Gentlemen, that it will be required for as short a time and for as few people as possible.

“On behalf of the nation, I want to say a very big thank you to the planners, the builders, the Armed Forces, the generous companies and organisations which have donated equipment and services, and all the support staff, who have made this possible. 

“Also we owe an immense debt of gratitude to the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, the staff – currently working in the health service and those coming out of retirement – and the voluntary workers who will be working within it.

“I can only offer my special thoughts and prayers to all those who will receive care within it and let us hope that it will not be too long before this terrible disease has left our land.”

Saying he was “enormously touched” to be asked to open the hospital, he added that the name of the hospital “could not be more aptly chosen”, after Florence Nightingale who gave “help and healing to thousands in their darkest hour. 

“In this dark time, this place will be a shining light,” he said. 

Joking that “as the wonders of modern technology can only do so much and I can’t quite reach”, he asked the hospitals head of nursing to lift the cloth off the plaque to declare it open.

The message was filmed on an iPad in the Drawing Room at Birkhall. A photograph, taken by a member of staff, shows the Prince surrounded by family pictures and propping the screen up on his own enormous book. 

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