How Queen Elizabeth II safely went maskless as she left lockdown

The monarch, 94, was joined by Prince William to meet scientists at Porton Down

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II emerged from lockdown on Thursday to meet some members of the public, but unlike most of the country’s population when they are in shops and other indoor settings, she did not wear a mask.

The monarch, 94, was joined by Prince William, 38, at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down near Salisbury, in Wiltshire. The pair met scientists who worked in the aftermath of the 2018 Novichok attack, and are supporting Britain’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the visit, the Queen opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre and spoke with staff about the response to the poisoning in Salisbury two years ago.

The pair arrived separately by helicopter and by car. Although the two royals safely adhered to social distancing, neither wore a mask despite the Queen being in a high-risk group for suffering severe Covid-19.

But the monarch was able to ditch the mask because all 48 people who came into close contact with her and Prince William were tested for coronavirus beforehand. While this process was not completely foolproof, all 48 tests came back negative.

Britain went into a national lockdown on March 23 to quell the spread of the coronavirus. The Queen left her Buckingham Palace residence early in March in London before spending time in Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip, 98. They returned to the Palace this month.

The monarch’s decision not to wear a mask polarised pundits across the globe. Royal commentator and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s biographer Omid Scobie said he was worried about the signal her decision would send to international audiences.

"My two cents: While sensible and safe precautious were clearly made, I do worry that most people seeing the photos/videos won’t know the back story,” he said on Twitter.

"As the majority of the UK enters tighter restrictions, seeing leaders in masks would have been a strong visual."

But Buckingham Palace said she made the decision after consulting her medical team.

"Specific advice on this visit has been sought from the medical household and relevant parties, and all necessary precautions taken, working closely with Dstl," a royal source told Mirror Online.

"All [Porton Down] staff have also been involved in the UK’s response to Covid-19 so are well versed in the necessary precautions."