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The United Kingdom's battle against the coronavirus pandemic just became a bit more magical. Medical workers for the National Health Service can now travel between hospitals with the help of branded buses that usually ferry Harry Potter fans to and from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour at Leavesden Studios outside of London.
“Our workforce has been depleted due to sickness or self-isolation and so, it’s really important that those staff who are well, but have transport issues, can come back," Paul da Gama, Chief People Officer at West Herts Hospitals, said in a statement. “Whilst we’re doing all we can to enable remote working, the reality is that there are still many colleagues who need to be at one of our hospitals to do their jobs. Plus, we are redeploying people into new roles and so, we need more staff back on site to pitch in and support our brave and brilliant clinical colleagues."
West Herts Hospitals (short for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust) has three locations. The buses are being provided by the usual vendor, Golden Tours.
“A special shuttle bus, which will have strict social distancing rules, is the perfect solution and we are so grateful to Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden and Golden Tours for making this happen," da Gama continued. "Our staff might not be traveling to exotic locations or seeing behind the scenes of a major movie, but they will be making magic happen in their own way!"
Readers of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world novels may find themselves comparing this noble initiative to the Knight Bus, a magical triple-deck vehicle that takes wizards and witches anywhere they want to go, so long as they hail it down by sticking out their wand arm. The concept was first introduced in Prisoner of Azkaban. While the Studio Tour buses can't skip traffic or make buildings jump out of the way, they are (as da Gama put it) still miraculous in that they're helping save lives.
“We couldn’t think of a better way to use the buses at this time. We are delighted to play a part in supporting our local NHS in its time of need," said a rep for Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden.
“The priorities of the nation have changed completely as people learn to enjoy days in and not days out. But for key workers, staying home is not an option and we’re delighted to be able to help by providing a safe and reliable way to get to work and back," added Mikesh Palan, managing director at Golden Tours.
Totally free of charge, the hourly service begins at 6:10 a.m. and ends at 10:40 p.m. The only thing truly missing is Knight Bus conductor Stan Shunpike and his trademark cockney accent.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter has temporarily suspended all tours.
Earlier this month, Rowling launched a three-pronged Potter program for people currently stuck at home amid the crisis. A digital hub of everything relating to the magical franchise, as well as free promotions from Audible and OverDrive, are part of a plan to keep people entertained and comfortable during self-isolation/quarantine.
Today, Audible announced that families can access the audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (narrated by Stephen Fry) for free through their Amazon Alexa. All you need to say is "Alexa, read Harry Potter Book One," and you'll be instantly transported to Privet Drive and Hogwarts, as though by Floo powder or Apparition.
Last week, Rowling revealed on Twitter that she was fully recovered after experiencing two weeks of coronavirus symptoms.