LONDON (AFP) – Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute in her annual Christmas Day broadcast on Thursday to the “selflessness” of medical staff and aid wor-kers fighting the Ebola epidemic.
She said how “deeply touched” she was by the volunteers who have gone to work in areas af-fected by the deadly virus (according to extracts released ahead of the broadcast).
“I have been deeply touched this year by the selflessness of aid workers and medical volunteers who have gone abroad to help victims of conflict or of diseases like Ebola, often at great personal risk,” the 88-year-old queen said.
The virus has killed more than 7,500 people, the vast majority in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Li-beria.
People caring for the sick or handling the bo-dies of people infected with Ebola are especially exposed to the virus and 365 healthcare workers have died, most of them local staff.
A British health worker who survived Ebola will be delivering his own message to the nation after being chosen to give Channel 4’s “Alternative Christmas Message”.
William Pooley, a nurse who decided to return to Sierra Leone after receiving treatment in Bri-tain, will call for greater global action against the virus.
“I don’t want to make you feel guilty but I would like you to think just for a few minutes about what you could do to help,” the 29-year-old will say in a message filmed at Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
“This is a global problem and it will take the world to fix it. What a wonderful Christmas pre-sent that would be.”
The queen’s message is an annual event, broadcast on BBC television and radio after
lunch, and watched by millions of people in Bri-tain and across the Commonwealth.
It is one of the few speeches that she writes herself, rather than with government ministers.
For the past two decades, independent tele-vision station Channel 4 has selected a figure in the public eye to deliver an alternative message, which is broadcast after the queen.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden gave the message last year, and previous speakers inclu-ded Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and French animal rights campaigner and actress Brigitte Bardot.