Ant and Dec have paid tribute to NHS staff and frontline workers in the battle with coronavirus at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East.
The pair recorded video messages for the virtual ceremony, which was attended only by members of Team Northumbria – the NHS staff, businesses and organisations who transformed the building in to a 460-bed hospital.
Dec, real name Declan Donnelly, said: “It’s hard to imagine that a few short weeks ago this building was being readied as the Sunderland Innovation Centre and today, thanks to more than 300 people working around the clock, it’s been transformed into a state-of-the-art, 460-bed hospital.”
Ant, real name Anthony McPartlin, added: “We are sorry we can’t be there in person with you today but for obvious reasons we can’t be anywhere in person apart from our back gardens.”
The duo also introduced a montage of video tributes from famous faces including Alan Shearer, Brenda Blethyn, Steph McGovern, Robson Green, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Steph McGovern and Ben Stokes.
Donnelly said: “Now even though we are here today to open the hospital, the best-case scenario is that it isn’t needed, the amazing hospitals and the staff of the NHS in the north east have been pulling out all the stops in the last few months to cope in this most difficult of times and we hope and pray that thanks to everyone staying at home and safe distancing and washing their hands that we will keep the dreadful affect of this virus to a minimum.
McPartlin continued: “Even if it isn’t needed, it has been a magnificent feat to pull this together and the speed of the transformation will be an enduring symbol of what the great people of this area are capable of.”
Vera star Blethyn also shared her appreciation for NHS staff, saying: “I want to send my heartfelt thanks and much appreciation to everyone working on the frontline of the NHS.”
McGovern said: “The fact you are going out there and looking after everyone in this time which is just mad, and putting others first before yourself, you’re amazing, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the Countess of Wessex and Simon Stevens, chief executive, NHS England, also sent messages for the opening of the hospital.