Prince William joked about returning to the pub and a widening waistline as he carried out his first in-person engagement in weeks.
William, 37, visited the Kings Lynn Ambulance Station at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Norfolk to thank East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) workers who have been on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.
During the visit, he joked with staff about being worried “about the waistline of the country” owing to the “chocolate and cakes” which have been eaten during lockdown, saying “we’re all going to have dentist appointments for fillings and all sorts”.
He revealed he had been baking at home, saying “chocolate goes down well at any time” and told staff he is looking forward to the government message to support his local pub.
William and Kate, 38, have been in lockdown in Norfolk at their home in Anmer Hall since the beginning of restrictions on travel in the UK.
Their last public engagement was in Croydon in March, when they paid a secret visit to the London Ambulance Service 111 control room.
Kensington Palace said the Duke of Cambridge heard from staff about the measures they had put in place to ensure work could continue during the pandemic, and the support they had from the public.
He also spoke to staff about the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health, and asked about how they had felt about the weekly Clap for Carers.
One staff member told him it was “overwhelming” to have the applause each week.
He said: “Everyone appreciates the NHS and we have a great system over here, many countries envy it.
“It’s not until we have a big crisis that everyone goes ‘OK, we need to make sure we really value and we show our appreciation’.”
Encouraging them to look after themselves, the duke said: “Heed that warning, I know where you all are.
“Remember your mental health, have that little version of me in your head.”
He also joked that he was looking forward to the government messages encouraging Britons to go to the pub.
“I’m looking forward to getting that government message that we all have to drink more. Go support your local pub,” he joked.
William is likely to know the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as he worked as helicopter pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance charity.
The duke used a thermometer in his ear when he arrived at the ambulance station. He was not wearing a mask during the engagement but did follow social distancing rules.
Posting about the visit on social media afterwards, Kensington Royal wrote: “Thank you to the staff of Kings Lynn Ambulance, Queen Elizabeth Hospital for welcoming The Duke of Cambridge to their ambulance station, and sharing so candidly their experiences over recent months in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The duke and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, launched Our Frontline in April to help those who had to continue working out of their homes throughout the pandemic. It provides round the clock mental health and wellbeing resources.
They have been in Norfolk with their three children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte, who have been homeschooled throughout the lockdown.
Princess Charlotte’s year group is back to school in England, but the family has stayed in Norfolk.
George, six, and Charlotte, five, both go to Thomas’s in Battersea, south London.
Earlier on Tuesday, William’s father Prince Charles made a socially distanced visit to a hospital in Gloucestershire, where he and his wife Camilla have returned after nearly three months in Scotland.
And his aunt, Princess Anne, visited the Duke of Gloucester barracks, meeting personnel who have been involved in the coronavirus response.
It’s a signal that while the royals will continue to carry out many engagements from home, they are keen to get back to in-person visits.
On Saturday, the Queen marked her official birthday at Windsor Castle with a small, socially distanced military ceremony, a reduced version of the usual Trooping the Colour spectacular.
On Thursday, Charles and Camilla will host Emmanuel Macron, the French president, in a meeting in Clarence House.
However it’s understood they will be staying in their Gloucestershire and Wiltshire homes and not moving back to London full-time.