The 94-year-old Queen sent the wrong message to fans by not wearing a mask, according to experts
- Queen Elizabeth II chose not to wear a face covering at her first public engagement since the coronavirus pandemic began.
- While both the monarch and Prince William did not wear masks, Buckingham Palace said medical advice was sought and "all necessary precautions taken."
- Infectious disease specialist Dr. Sandra Kesh told Insider that while there was minimal risk involved at this particular event, the Queen should have considered wearing a mask to encourage others to do the same.
- Dr. Kesh added that "it reaffirms that this is a shared responsibility regardless of your position or station in life."
- Staff members were said to have tested negative for COVID-19 before the engagement, though Dr. Kesh said it's worth noting that "testing is not 100% [accurate]."
Queen Elizabeth II stepped out for her first engagement since the pandemic without a mask, and the decision has left public opinion divided.
Her Majesty was accompanied by her grandson the Duke of Cambridge at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) on Thursday, where they met scientists supporting the UK's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince William also did not wear a mask. The 48 staff members who the pair came into contact with during the engagement had "very recently" tested negative for COVID-19, according to ITV News, though it's not clear exactly when the tests took place.
"Specific advice was sought from the Medical household and relevant parties, and all necessary precautions taken, working closely with DSTL," a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told Insider.
The Queen should have led by example, according to experts
Insider spoke to infectious disease specialist Dr. Sandra Kesh, who said there was minimal risk involved for both William and the 94-year-old monarch.
However, she suggested that the Queen should have worn a mask anyway to encourage others to do the same.
"The risk of exposure is minimal because they tested individuals and it was an outdoor setting," Dr. Kesh, Deputy Medical Director and Infectious Disease Specialist at Westmed Medical Group, told Insider.
"We know that the majority of transmission occurs in prolonged close contact, meaning within six feet for over 15 minutes.
"That said, these parameters are not always clear to non-medical individuals and when they see a role model not wearing a mask, I do worry about the message that sends," she added.
"In general I do think it's better for public leaders to wear a mask even in situations where they may not be personally at risk because it reaffirms that this is a shared responsibility regardless of your position or station in life."
Meanwhile, royal biographer Omid Scobie wrote on Twitter that the Queen could be sending the wrong message to those who aren't aware of the precautions that were taken before the visit.
"While sensible and safe precautions were clearly made, I do worry that most people seeing the photos/videos won't know the backstory," Scobie wrote on Twitter. "As the majority of the UK enters tighter restrictions, seeing leaders in masks would have been a strong visual."
—Omid Scobie (@scobie) October 15, 2020
Testing is not 100% accurate
Dr. Kesh added that the royal household should have considered that "testing is not 100% [accurate]."
"We know that individuals may be infected and test negative," she said. "I think the message that those surrounding the royal family were tested negative should not give people false reassurance that this was an entirely safe situation."
The White House has used testing as their main precaution against the coronavirus.
Event staff and attendees were not required to wear masks at the Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden, which Trump hosted on September 26. All guests tested negative for COVID-19 before attending.
Less than a week later, the president had contracted the virus.
Research has found that it takes five days for coronavirus symptoms to show up after a person is infected. Those infected are also more prone to spreading the virus the day they start showing symptoms and the day before, Business Insider's Aylin Woodward previously reported.
Kesh added that her guidance to anyone in a similar situation would be to wear a mask.
"We know that consistent mask use is probably the best defense against an infection where up to 50% of the spread occurs in individuals who do not have symptoms," she said.
Her Majesty isn't the only royal to cause confusion amid new restrictions
Before the UK went into lockdown in March, Prince William joked that he and Middleton were "spreading" the virus.
Speaking with emergency workers at a reception hosted by Britain's Ambassador to Ireland, William said: "I bet everyone's like 'I've got coronavirus, I'm dying,' and you're like 'no, you've just got a cough.'
"Does it seem quite dramatic about coronavirus at the moment? Is it being a little bit hyped up do you think in the media?"
Later, he joked: "By the way, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are spreading coronavirus, sorry ... We're keeping an eye on that, so do tell us if we need to stop."
Since the government's restrictions have continued to tighten over the past seven months, the Duke of Cambridge has worn face coverings to his other engagements.
The duke wore a mask at an engagement with Kate Middleton in London on Thursday — his first engagement since the appearance with the Queen.
—Emily Nash (@emynash) October 20, 2020
Meanwhile, Prince Charles was exempt from the UK government's quarantine rules after a trip to Kuwait earlier this month.
—The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (@ClarenceHouse) October 4, 2020
The prince, who recovered from the coronavirus earlier this year, made the trip to offer his condolences after the death of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
According to Hello! Magazine royal correspondent Danielle Stacey, Charles qualified for the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office exemption as he was on official government business on behalf of the UK and the Queen.
Others returning from the country would have had to self-isolate for 14 days.
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