Coronavirus: Prince William takes royal lead as queen seeks refuge at countryside Windsor Castle and Prince Charles self-isolates

(SCMP) – The outbreak of the new coronavirus in the UK is expected to elevate the role of Prince William as his father Prince Charles self-isolates after having come in contact with another European royal who tested positive.

Prince William led the way last week by visiting a London Ambulance Covid-19 call centre with his wife Catherine, being careful to be seen not shaking hands.

“Catherine and I were proud to visit staff working at NHS 111, to pass on our personal thanks, along with those of my grandmother and father, to staff working around the clock to provide care and advice to those that need it most,” Kensington Palace, the Cambridge’s London residence tweeted. Since then, the couple and their three children were reportedly staying in the family country residence in Sandringham, Norfolk.

Queen Elizabeth, 93, has already escaped London, where the Covid-19 disease is spreading quickly. She moved a week earlier from Buckingham Palace on Thursday to Windsor Castle, where she normally lives at Easter.

Her 98-year-old husband Prince Philip joined her from his residence in Wood Farm, Sandringham.

Given her advanced years, there has been little public criticism of the queen’s precautionary move, as the deadly coronavirus ripped through the world.

Having dedicated her life to public service, it would be British tragedy if she were to die and not be able to have a state funeral because of a ban on large gatherings.

Prince Charles, 71, the next in line to the throne and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were in Balmoral in Scotland. Under new UK government instructions all people over 70 should self-isolate for at least three months.

Charles came into close contact with Prince Albert of Monaco at an event in London on March 10. Albert was the first member of a European royal family to test positive for Covid-19.

The 62-year-old sovereign of the enclave on the French Mediterranean coast was being closely monitored by his doctor and specialists, and his health “does not give any cause for concern,” according to a statement from the palace of Monaco last Thursday.

The European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, also said on Thursday he had tested positive for coronavirus.

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie were also among public figures who have tested positive for the virus which has infected almost 300,000 people across the world and left more than 12,700 dead.

“As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty,” the queen said in her first statement on the pandemic last Thursday.

“We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them.”
She called on people to come together and thanked the work of the country’s scientists, medical practitioners and emergency service workers.

“Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part,” she said.

The Sunday Times reported the queen would give a televised address to the nation in coming days, the first since her own mother died in 2002.

The traditional round of early summer garden parties and state visits, including that of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan, have been postponed until next year.

The queen’s normal weekly face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson was carried out by phone last week. The only visitors she received before leaving Buckingham Palace was the Bishop of Hereford and the incoming and outgoing commanders of the new aircraft carrier HMS Elizabeth, which is expected to be deployed to the South China Sea next year.