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Queen delivers Commonwealth Day speech hours before Harry, Meghan tell-all interview

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Queen Elizabeth touted “remarkable” progress made in the fight against COVID-19 and the need for “unity” during trying times in her Commonwealth Day address just hours before Oprah Winfrey’s impending interview with Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.

The interview is set to air Sunday evening in Canada, and on Monday in the U.K. Her annual holiday speech made no mention of the interview, or of her husband, Prince Philip, who was recently transferred out of a cardiac hospital to a private facility on Friday following a successful heart procedure.

The Queen did, however, commend the “stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication” demonstrated during the ongoing pandemic, lauding front-line workers for their public services.

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“We have also taken encouragement from remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments,” she said.

This year’s Commonwealth Day will come several weeks after the British government announced it would begin amping up COVID-19 vaccinations with the goal of giving every adult their first dose by July 31 — one month earlier than its previous target.

To date, 22,213,112 people in the U.K. have received their first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNtech or AstraZeneca vaccines. According to the U.K. government’s most recent data, the country’s population is just under 67 million, with people aged 65 years and up accounting for 12.4 million of Britain’s population.

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These numbers are good news for Britons, many of whom have been reporting feelings of intense loneliness as the U.K. looks to “cautiously but irreversibly” move out of lockdown and allow children to return to school this month.

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“We are now travelling on a one-way road to freedom,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a televised news conference in February.

The Queen also focused on new emerging technologies that have made it easier to connect with friends and loved ones online, remarking on the “unusual experience” of this year.

“In our everyday lives, we have had to become more accustomed to connecting and communicating via innovative technology — which has been new to some of us — with conversations and communal gatherings, including Commonwealth meetings, conducted online, enabling people to stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues and counterparts, who they have not been able to meet in person,” she said.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Queen spoke of a “renewed sense of closeness and community” brought about by connecting through technology.

“Increasingly, we have found ourselves able to enjoy such communication, as it offers an immediacy that transcends boundaries or division, helping any sense of distance to disappear,” she said.

“The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others.”

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Looking forward, the Queen said maintaining relationships was the key to a “sustainable and more secure” future, “so that the nations and neighbourhoods in which we live, wherever they are located, become healthier and happier places for us all.”

— With files from The Associated Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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