Queen Elizabeth Sparks Questions About Why She Is Not Wearing a Mask

Queen Elizabeth stepped out for her first public engagement outside a royal residence since March — and many were surprised that the 94-year-old monarch did not wear a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen, joined by grandson and future king Prince William, headed to Salisbury to visit a top-level lab on Thursday. She wore a pink coat by Stewart Parvin with a matching hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan, but no one sported face coverings during the outing — even William, who has previously been seen in masks.

Royal sources say that all relevant COVID-19 guidelines were being followed during the outing at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). In addition to social distancing being practiced and primarily staying outdoors, all of those meeting the Queen and her grandson tested negative for the virus.

"Specific advice has been sought from the medical household and relevant parties, and all necessary precautions taken, working closely with Dstl," a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman says.

The U.K. government encourages face masks to be worn in most indoor settings, including times when "social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet." Those who do not comply with guidelines can receive fines.

In March, Queen Elizabeth left Buckingham Palace in London to self-isolate at Windsor Castle with husband Prince Philip, 99. She has since carried out just two royal engagements: a scaled-down Trooping the Colour celebration in June and the knighting of fundraiser Sir Tom Moore, both behind closed doors.

The Queen also attended granddaughter Princess Beatrice's July wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, after their original May date was postponed due to the pandemic. There were just about 20 close friends and family members in attendance.

The Queen and Prince Philip spent time at Balmoral in Scotland over the summer before heading to their Sandringham estate. Earlier this month, the monarch returned solo to Windsor Castle, with plans to return to Buckingham Palace in London for "selected audiences and engagements."

Queen Elizabeth and Prince William's outing on Thursday was to pay tribute to staff who worked in the aftermath of the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter with Novichok nerve agent two years ago. After heroic work by doctors and specialists, Sergei Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, then 33,  survived the attack by suspected Russian agents in March 2018. But a member of the public, who also came into contact with the nerve agent, tragically died four months later.

Royal sources say that the visit was initially scheduled to take place in April but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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The royal pair also spoke to scientists providing vital support to the U.K.'s response to the coronavirus pandemic, working in analytic research areas, and deploying microbiologists to NHS hospitals to increase testing capacities.

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