Coronavirus: Charles and Camilla carry out first face-to-face royal engagement since lockdown

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have carried out the first face-to-face public royal engagement since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

The couple visited Gloucestershire Royal Hospital to thank NHS staff in person for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, and spent half an hour meeting around 20 key workers in the hospital grounds.

Prince Charles nodded to people and put his hands together in a namaste-style gesture, rather than shaking hands.

Prince Charles performs a namaste greeting to Professor Mark Pietroni upon arriving at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

Talking to a member of staff who worked in A&E, Camilla was told that 12 members of staff were hospitalised, with five of them having to be treated in intensive care.

The duchess could be overheard saying how she felt the crisis had brought out the best in Britain as people have come together.

Charles and Camilla met frontline workers
Charles and Camilla met frontline workers

Talking about how important it was to make the visit, Prince Charles said: “It’s been a marvellous opportunity just to see people who I know have been doing so much on the frontline and having to endure a lot of stress and strain I think in their wonderful way.

“How they do it – I don’t know. But they’re delivering everything in the most effective way – and the great thing they’re all saying is it’s brought all the different departments together in a way that hasn’t always hasn’t before.

“There’s been a great deal of marvellous cooperation, I think.”

Charles waves to onlookers who came out to greet him
Charles waves to onlookers who came out to greet him
Hospital staff awaited the royals' arrival
Hospital staff awaited the royals’ arrival

It’s the first time any members of the royal family have carried out an official engagement or audience in person with members of the public since lockdown started in March.

The palace is aware that anything they do is potentially setting an example to the rest of the country when it comes to the current restrictions still in place due to coronavirus.

Reporting on the engagement wasn’t allowed until after the couple had left, to try to minimise the risk of crowds gathering to see them.

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Prince Charles and Camilla have been at Birkhall, their home in Scotland, since the lockdown started – carrying out regular video calls and phone calls to keep in touch with their charity patronages and releasing video messages of support for community groups and key workers.

The prince caught the virus in March and this month told Sky News he knows he was “lucky” and “got away with it quite lightly”.

But he said it has made him even more determined to “push and shout and prod” to make sure that nature is at the centre of the post-COVID recovery.

On Thursday, Prince Charles and Camilla will welcome French President Emmanuel Macron to Clarence House on behalf of the UK government, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s “Appel” to the French people.

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