The Queen addressed Great Britain, the Commonwealth, and the world on Sunday in a rare speech calling for unity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Queen also issued a written message directly to Canadians to say her "thoughts and prayers are with the people of Canada at this time."

In her broadcast statement, the Queen thanked front-line workers fighting the pandemic and encouraged people to stay home. Although the speech focused on Great Britain, the Queen appealed to anyone watching her.

"While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour using the greatest advances of science, and our instinctive compassion to heal," she said. "We will succeed. And that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return.

"We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again."

The Queen has addressed the Commonwealth every Christmas Day since she ascended to the throne in 1952, but it's only the fifth time in her 68-year reign that she has spoken specifically to rally Britons.

She also addressed Great Britain at the beginning of the first Gulf War in February 1991, on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in September 1997 on the death of the Queen Mother in April 2002, and in June 2012 to celebrate her own Diamond Jubilee.

The Queen, 93, noted that her very first public address was made in 1940 when she and her sister, Princess Margaret, spoke to other children displaced by the Second World War.

"Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones," she said in the statement that was recorded on Thursday at Windsor Castle, her main residence. "But now, as then, we know deep down that it is the right thing to do."

Queen makes rare public speech in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Unity was the primary theme of the Queen's speech, stressing the importance of restrictions on public gatherings and slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"Together we are tackling this disease and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it," she said. "I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge."

Her message to Canadians echoed the themes of resilience in her broadcast speech, noting she understands the "profound and rapid changes" caused by COVID-19 make everyone uneasy but believes Canadians will rise to the challenge.

"It may be difficult to remain hopeful when faced with loss and uncertainty, but Canadians have many reasons for optimism, even in the most trying times," she said.

"Across Canada, countless people continue to care for the most vulnerable and to provide essential services for their fellow citizens. I am thankful for their dedication and for the hope it offers."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 5, 2020.