Coronavirus hits royals: Prince Charles had contact with Australians before testing positive

The Prince of Wales with London mayor, William Russell (left) and the High Commissioner for Australia, George Brandis (right).

The Prince of Wales with London mayor, William Russell (left) and the High Commissioner for Australia, George Brandis (right). Photo: AAP

Prince Charles, the Queen’s son and heir to the British throne, is the latest high-profile person to test positive for the coronavirus in a global pandemic that has infected almost half a million people.

Charles, 71, was pictured rubbing shoulders with High Commissioner for Australia George Brandis at a London fundraising event for Australia’s bushfire victims – the day before doctors believe the future king became contagious. 

Australian comedian Adam Hills was the master of ceremonies at the March 12 dinner where high-profile figures, including London’s mayor William Russell, gathered to raise money for fire relief.

Hills ran the charity auction and Mr Brandis delivered a speech at what was Charles’ last major public engagement before the UK began shutting down businesses and stopping gatherings to slow the virus.

An Australia House spokesman said Mr Brandis, 62, has no symptoms of coronavirus and is following British government guidelines.

“All of us at the Australian High Commission wish His Royal Highness a speedy recovery,” the spokesman said.

The royal family is unsure from whom the prince contracted the virus, or whether it spread at the fire relief fundraiser, explaining that he’d been at several events in recent weeks.

It has been confirmed that on March 10 he sat near Monaco’s head of state, Prince Albert, at a lunch even. Prince Albert has since tested positive. 

In a statement on Wednesday night (Australian time), Clarence House said Charles has “mild symptoms” of COVID-19 but was in overall good health.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks,” the statement read. 

Doctors believe the future king became contagious about March 13 – a day after he last saw the Queen.

That morning on March 12, Charles briefly saw the 93-year-old monarch. According to Buckingham Palace, she remains in good health and is “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare”.

As a precautionary measure, the Queen left Buckingham Palace last week and moved to Windsor Castle with 98-year-old Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip after the government announced the spread of the coronavirus in London was weeks ahead of the rest of the UK.

“It is likely the Queen will stay there [at Windsor Castle] beyond the Easter period,” a statement by Buckingham Palace read.

Charles was unable to see the Queen on Mother’s Day but paid tribute to her with a rare childhood photo posted on Instagram.

On March 13, Charles was at his family residence in Highgrove House, in England’s west, with wife Camilla.

She was later tested for the coronavirus, but the result came back negative.

That Sunday, Charles travelled to their Birkhall residence on the Balmoral estate in Scotland. A small number of people who live and work there are self-isolating.

Prince avoided shaking hands

In recent weeks, Charles was pictured practising namastes instead of handshakes at his public events, including when the royals gathered for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on March 9, and a Prince’s Trust event on March 11.

The UK enters into lockdown

Prime minister Boris Johnson has placed the UK under a police-enforced lockdown, 12 hours after issuing a historic address to the nation urging that people only leave their homes for very limited reasons such as going to supermarkets or once a day for exercise.

The unprecedented peacetime restrictions, which will last for at least three weeks, were brought in to prevent the state-run National Health Service from being overwhelmed.

All but essential shops have closed and people are no longer allowed to meet family or friends.

Police will break up gatherings of more than two people and social events such as weddings, although not funerals, will be stopped.

There have so far been more than 450,000 cases of infection and at least 20,550 deaths worldwide.

-with AAP

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