Queen should have set an example on face covering, says pressure group

Royal visit

The Queen should have set an example by wearing a face mask during her first public engagement outside of a royal residence since lockdown, the pressure group Republic has said.

The 94-year-old monarch visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl) at Porton Down near Salisbury with the Duke of Cambridge on Thursday.

Neither wore face coverings, but the dstl said it tested all 48 people who were due to come into close contact with the royal visitors for Covid-19, and all came back negative.

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The Queen visits Porton Down
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The Queen visits Porton Down
TOPSHOT - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II visits the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. - The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, (L) stands by as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) unveils a plaque to officially open the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, (C) speak with Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (L) as they head back to the Energetics Analysis Centre during their visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, (R) presents British Army Colonel Mike Duff (L), Assistant Commander South West and deputy joint commander for the decontamination of Salisbury following the 2018 Novichok incident, with the Firmin Sword of Peace for the South West department's work on the Novichok incident, during the Duke's visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) is seen after she unveiled a plaque to officially open the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II visits the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II visits the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II stands after signing a visitor's book during her visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II speaks with staff during a visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L), Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (C) and Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (R) view a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation with a model explosive device in a vehicle at the Energetics Analysis Centre as they visit the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II speaks with staff including Professor Tim Atkins (R), who was honoured for his work on the 2018 Novichok incident and has been involved in the fight against Covid-19, during a visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (R) view a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation with explosives detection dog named 'Max' at the Energetics Analysis Centre as they visit the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II stands after signing a visitor's book during her visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park on October 15, 2020 near Salisbury, England. The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrives at the Energetics Analysis Centre as they visit the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. - The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) speaks with Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (L) as she arrives at the Energetics Analysis Centre as they visit the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. - The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) where they were to view displays of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence, a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and meet staff who were involved in the Salisbury Novichok incident. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Social distancing – including between William and his grandmother – was also maintained during the visit.

Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, said: "The Queen should be setting an example.

"I can't see how this fits with the rules everyone else is expected to follow, so the Palace needs to come up with a rules-compliant explanation."

Royal commentator Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said the Queen and William would inevitably be criticised, but medical advice would have been carefully followed.

"The Queen and the Duke of Cambridge will inevitably be criticised for not wearing a face covering, but medical advice was sought while the royal visit was being planned and social distancing seemingly was maintained throughout," Mr Little said.

The Queen
The Queen watching a demonstration of a forensic explosives investigation (Ben Stansall/PA)

He described the Queen's engagement as offering a "visible and timely reassurance" during the global pandemic.

"The Queen's first official engagement away from a royal residence for the first time in seven months delivers a visible and timely reassurance that daily life can continue during the pandemic in a modified form, even for someone in their 95th year," he said.

"As expected, Her Majesty appeared in good form and no doubt she was pleased to be on duty once again after a prolonged absence."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "Specific advice has been sought from the medical household and relevant parties, and all necessary precautions taken, working closely with dstl."

Face coverings are required by law in certain indoor settings such as on public transport, in shops and places of worship.

The Government recommends wearing a face covering in indoor places where social distancing may be difficult and where the public come into contact with those they do not normally meet.

It is not known when the dstl staff were tested, and Kensington Palace declined to comment on whether the duke was also required to have a test in order to be able to accompany his grandmother.

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