United Kingdom: first public outing in seven months for Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth II conducted her first public engagement outside her residences on Thursday since the start of the pandemic. The 94-year-old monarch, accompanied by her grandson Prince William, visited the military laboratory in Porton Down (Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, DSTL), in the south-west of England.

The British sovereign met there researchers working on the new coronavirus, with whom she spoke. “It doubles again… I guess that was to be expected?” She remarked. She also met scientists who identified the innervating agent that poisoned ex-double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March 2018.

For this exceptional visit in the agenda of Elizabeth II, precautionary measures had been taken. The 48 people brought to meet her as well as Prince William have notably undergone a Covid-19 screening test.

The prince and queen officially inaugurated a new division of this military laboratory / REUTERS.

The Queen appeared without a mask in front of photographers, as did her grandson or those receiving her, prompting many comments on tabloid sites. However, the participants in this meeting kept their distance, in accordance with official recommendations.

Two televised interventions during the pandemic

This is the first time that the 94-year-old sovereign has left a royal residence for a public engagement since the confinement which was decreed at the end of March, then gradually lifted in the summer.

During the pandemic, she spoke on television twice from Windsor Castle, where she also performed decorations. She attended a charity meeting by videoconference in June but had only traveled to visit her Scottish residence in Balmoral during the summer and then to the Sandringham estate in eastern England.

The new coronavirus has killed more than 43,000 in the United Kingdom, far more than in any other country in Europe. The virus has infected at least 654,000 people, including Prince Charles, heir to the throne, who was affected by a mild form from which he recovered. The government raised the alert level this week and tightened restrictions, like everywhere else in Europe.

Following the Skripal affair, London had designated Russia as responsible for this attack which had provoked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis and a cross-expulsion of diplomats not seen since the end of the Cold War.

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