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No face mask for Queen during first public engagement since start of pandemic

Written by on 15 October 2020

The Queen is carrying out her first public engagement outside of palace grounds since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, visiting the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down near Salisbury with the Duke of Cambridge.

It is the first time that the Queen has officially met members of the public away from Windsor Castle, after she moved out of Buckingham Palace in March to live in Windsor because of COVID-19.

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The Queen and Prince William were pictured without face masks as they visited Porton Down in Wiltshire to officially open its new Energetics Analysis Centre.

A palace source said specific advice on precautions to take during the visit was sought and everyone who met the royals had tested negative for coronavirus.

The media were not allowed close to the visitors and wore face masks.

The Queen also arrived by helicopter separately from William, who arrived by car.

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The pair met scientists involved in highly classified research and analysis to protect the UK against terrorist and criminal threats.

The royals also spoke to staff involved in identifying the nerve agent novichok and the subsequent clear-up of the Salisbury attack in 2018.

Queen Elizabeth II arrives for a visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, Wiltshire, to view the Energetics Enclosure, a display of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident.

They talked to scientists who have been supporting the UK response to the COVID-19 pandemic through research and deploying microbiologists to NHS hospitals to increase testing capacities.

They will also see a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation (FEL) and meet staff employed in Counter Terrorism and Security.

FEL teams provide evidence and expert witness statements on explosives-related court cases.

Their support was crucial in providing evidence for terrorist cases including the attacks at Manchester Arena and Parsons Green.

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During the pandemic, the Queen has been shielded at Windsor Castle along with the Duke of Edinburgh.

The only times that she’s been officially seen in public have been within the castle grounds, for a military parade for her official birthday celebrations and in July when she gave a knighthood to Captain Tom Moore.

(left to right) Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Cambridge and Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead view a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation, with a model explosive device in a vehicle, during a visit to the Energetics Analysis Centre of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, Wiltshire.
The Queen at Porton Down.

In a first for the Queen, she has carried out virtual engagements, using video call to talk to charities, the military and even to unveil a portrait of herself.

In August, the Queen and Prince Philip were able to travel to Balmoral in Scotland for their annual summer break before also spending a short time in Norfolk at the end of September.

Prince Philip has stayed in Norfolk, while the Queen returned to Windsor.

The palace said she may use Buckingham Palace for some audiences and official engagements in the coming months, dependant on the current COVID restrictions.