The Queen slams 'horrible' Covid-19 on her first public outing in 220 days

THE Queen gave the nation a big lift yesterday as she stepped out in public for the first time in 220 days.

Her Majesty flashed a beaming smile as she bravely ventured out from her secure “bubble” to describe the Covid-19 virus as “horrible”.

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Dressed in a rose cashmere coat and matching hat, the 94-year-old monarch was flanked by Prince William, and looked fit and well.

She was back in her old routine to open a £35million Energetics Analysis Centre at Porton Down, Wilts — as millions more Brits faced being hit with stricter coronavirus restrictions.

The Queen was told how experts who identified the Novichok nerve agent used in the Salisbury poisonings two years ago have been deployed in the Covid fight.

Experts at the high-security Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), are now trying to find ways to beat the pandemic by deploying microbiologists to NHS hospitals to increase testing.

Talking about the rising Covid crisis, the Queen remarked: “It’s doubling itself again.”

Professor Tim Atkins said: “We will have to evaluate how we approach this.”

The Queen grimaced as she replied: “With all these horrible new things.”

Former Buckingham Palace spokesman and royal commentator Dickie Arbiter said: “It is great to see the Queen again and it was nice that she was accompanied by Prince William.

“In the past she had the Duke of Edinburgh and it is right Prince William went with her in her first day out of the royal bubble in seven months.

“She’s a very fit and healthy person at 94. She eats frugally, doesn’t drink a lot and takes a lot of exercise.

“It is difficult when you can’t give face-to-face meetings because she enjoys meeting people and sharing information.

“But as we go into these tiers of the pandemic Buckingham Palace will take each engagement as it comes and seek advice from government health.

“I’m sure she was chomping at the bit to get out.

“People take heart that at 94 she is OK and looking good.

“She has her finger on the pulse and knows what is going on. To have an exchange about coronavirus with the scientists shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.”

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, said: “Her message was she needed and wanted to be seen. It really lifts people’s spirits.

“If the 94-year-old Queen can go out, let not the rest of us be defeated by all of this.

“It was touching that she did it with William. It sends a message of support to him as she is very proud of her grandson and appreciative of his hard work.

“She feels it is her duty to be seen and really had very little opportunity — and may not have much opportunity again in the immediate future — and so grabbed the moment when she could.”

The Queen appeared in public outside of a royal palace for the first time since the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on March 9. She and Prince William grinned as they met explosives detection dog Max after being shown a model bomb in a vehicle.

Her Majesty, who is a keen lover of dogs, asked Max’s handler: “Is he more interested in the explosives or the ball?” The handler replied: “Always the ball!”

After unveiling a plaque to mark the opening, she asked “What are you going to do with it?”

Chief executive Gary Aitkenhead said they would “display it with pride” in the lobby as a reminder of a great day.

The Queen also signed the guest book, adding: “Well, it proves we’ve been here, doesn’t it.” Mr Aitkenhead added: “There is no greater accolade than to have the Queen and Duke of Cambridge open this extraordinary building, particularly during a global pandemic.”

The centre was completed in June last year and provides the UK with a world-class science and engineering facility to defend the nation from explosive materials.

The T-shaped building is arranged over three levels, with two floors of state-of-the-art chemical labs, workshops, offices, meeting rooms and welfare facilities.

The royal VIPs were given a private tour of the Energetics Enclosure, where they were shown a display of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence — and the Forensic Explosives Laboratory, which helped the Manchester Arena and Parsons Green bombing investigations.

They also saw Britain’s only Linear Accelerator (Linac), an X-ray machine that can penetrate 2.5cm of steel to see inside a bomb.

Experts at the centre helped identify Novichok used by Russian assassins to poison Sergei Skripal, 69, and his daughter Yulia, 36, in a failed assassination bid in 2018.

Neither the Queen nor Prince William wore masks during their hour-long visit in line with the high-security centre’s guidance and advice from royal doctors.

All 48 staff had earlier been tested negative for Covid. They maintained social distancing — staying two metres from the monarch at all times, as did William.

The Queen has been protected by a ring of steel dubbed “HMS Bubble” for the past seven months.

Teams of 24 loyal aides have worked to keep her safe.

She arrived at Windsor Castle last week after her summer break and is expected to host meetings with dignitaries and investitures at Buckingham Palace this month.

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