Queen Elizabeth Leaves Her COVID Bubble for First Time in 7 Months

Queen Elizabeth Prince William

In her first in-person public engagement outside the safety of the royal residences since coronavirus measures were introduced seven months ago, Queen Elizabeth II formally opened a new analysis center at a highly secretive government science facility on Thursday. It was a rare joint appearance with her grandson Prince William, who's second in line to the throne.

The two royals were given a tour of the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the British military's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, about 90 miles outside of London.

They saw demonstrations of weapons and tactics used in counterintelligence, met counterterrorism staff and toured a top-secret lab where scientists carry out research into chemical and biological weapons and deadly diseases including Ebola and Anthrax.

The royals also met scientists leading the U.K.'s response to COVID-19, and the members of the team that confirmed in 2018 that former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in the nearby city of Salisbury with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. The U.K. later charged two alleged Russian agents, in absentia, with carrying out that attack.

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The Queen, accompanied The Duke of Cambridge, this morning visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Porton Down, and formally opened the new Energetics Analysis Centre. The Energetics Analysis Centre is a state-of-the-art building from which hundreds of scientists conduct research and analysis to protect the UK against terrorist and criminal threats relating to explosives. The Queen and The Duke viewed a demonstration of a Forensic Explosives Investigation and met staff employed in Counter Terrorism and Security, as well as Dstl staff and members of the military involved in identifying the nerve agent and subsequent clear up of the Novichok incident of 2018. In recognition of their work The Duke presented the Firmin Sword of Peace to representatives of Headquarters South West (The regional Army command headquarters of the south west of England.) Her Majesty and His Royal Highness also spoke to scientists providing vital support to the UK response of the COVID-19 pandemic, working in analytic research areas and deploying microbiologists to NHS hospitals to increase testing capacities.

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