UK queen emerges from months of virus lockdown

Reuters
Queen Elizabeth carried out her first major engagement since a coronavirus lockdown in March, visiting the Porton Down military research facility on Thursday.
Reuters

The Queen of the United Kingdom Elizabeth carried out her first major engagement since a coronavirus lockdown in March, visiting the Porton Down military research facility on Thursday.

The 94-year-old monarch has carried out her official duties remotely by video or telephone, or at her palace, since social restrictions were introduced.

For her first public outing, she made a rare joint appearance with her grandson Prince William, with neither wearing face masks although all involved were socially distanced.

During their trip, the royals met the Porton Down staff and military personnel who were involved in the Novichok clear-up operation, along with scientists helping the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The formal purpose of the royal trip was to open the lab’s new Energetics Analysis Centre, where the queen and the prince were given a demonstration of a forensic explosives investigation.

They also toured the lab’s Energetic Enclosure to see a display of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence.

Porton Down was founded in 1916 as Britain’s chemical and biological weapons laboratory, where defense scientists carried out secret experiments involving 20,000 servicemen, leading to the death of one from exposure to sarin nerve gas.

Since March, Elizabeth’s only public appearances have been at Windsor for a military ceremony in June to mark her birthday, and for a ceremony to knight record-breaking charity fundraiser, 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore. She has also paid private visits to Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham in eastern England, her private residences.

On Thursday, following the routine of much of her 68-year reign, she unveiled a plaque at Porton Down and signed the guest book. “Well, it proves we’ve been here, doesn’t it?” She joked.

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