UK

Coronavirus: Prince Charles's sense of smell and taste still not back

Prince Charles and Camilla Image copyright PA Media

Prince Charles has still not fully regained his sense of smell and taste after having coronavirus in March, he revealed on a visit to NHS staff.

The prince discussed his personal experience with the virus as he met workers at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital - at a 2m distance.

He was accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, who said the staff had showed "Britain at its best".

It was the couple's first face-to-face public engagement since lockdown began.

They met front-line staff and key workers from several NHS trusts, including consultants, nurses and cleaners, at the hospital near Prince Charles's Highgrove estate.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Prince Charles greeted NHS workers with a socially-distanced "namaste"

Social distancing rules were observed, with those waiting to meet them standing on yellow dots to ensure they were 2m apart.

Prince Charles greeted some of those he met with a "namaste" - clasping his hands together - instead of a handshake.

Jeff Mills, 47, a healthcare assistant from Cheltenham General Hospital, said: "He did speak of his personal experience, so first-hand experience for him.

"He also spoke about his loss of smell and taste and, sort of, still felt he's still got it now."

Analysis

By Nicholas Witchell, royal correspondent

They're never the most natural of meetings. Even at the best of times, royal visits can be a touch artificial. It's all that protocol: what do you call them; must one bow/curtsey; what does one talk about?

And now it's become ever so slightly more complicated thanks to the requirements of social distancing.

When Charles and Camilla turned up at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital they were greeted by staff who looked as though they were taking part in a military parade… they were formed up in impeccably well-presented ranks, each person 2m from each other.

Everyone understood and the royal guests joked about taking a salute or telling everyone to "fall out".

But the important thing was that it didn't interfere with the essential message of the occasion.

Prince William too had resumed face to face royal visits, meeting first responders at an ambulance station in Norfolk.

Conversations may not be at their most relaxed when the speakers are standing apart but no amount of protocol or "distancing" can dilute the underlying message of gratitude to all those who've been in the coronavirus front line.

The 71-year-old prince was diagnosed with Covid-19 near the start of the outbreak, after suffering mild symptoms. A loss of smell is thought to be one of the key symptoms.

He later said he had "got away with it quite lightly".

Asked if the country's appreciation of the NHS had changed for good, the duchess said: "I think it has, you can tell by all the people coming out every week to clap - they've done the most remarkable things.

"The way they've looked after people, the way they've sort of kept control of the whole thing... it's a question of not panicking and getting on with it and I think they are Britain at its best."

She also revealed the couple had their first socially-distanced reunion with their grandchildren last weekend, saying it had been a "great treat", even though they were not able to hug them.

With lockdown restrictions being eased, the Royal Family have chosen to take a step towards a return to normality - with a series of face-to-face public engagements.

The Duke of Cambridge visited King's Lynn Ambulance Station in Norfolk - the first time he had met members of the public in person since coronavirus restrictions were imposed.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Prince William's visit to the King's Lynn Ambulance Station was also socially distanced

Prince William joked about how he was looking forward to having a pint in the pub, as he praised staff for "all your hard work".

He said: "Everyone appreciates the NHS, we have an amazing system, it's a great health service and many countries around the world envy what we have.

"It's not until you have a big crisis, a pandemic, and everyone realises we have to really make sure we value and we show our appreciation."

He also joked: "I'm worried about the waistline of the nation as well, with all the chocolate and cakes. I've done a lot of baking at home."

The prince recently revealed he had been volunteering for crisis helpline Shout 85258 during the lockdown.

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