Speaking from the palace just before ending his two-week isolation on Monday, the 62-year old head of state exclusively told PEOPLE, “Things are okay. I still have a little bit of a cough, but that’s pretty normal, having spoken to a number of other people the cough goes on for a little bit. Otherwise all lights are green.”
“I received the clear from doctors on Monday morning,” he added. “But they said, ‘Don’t see your family right away. Wait another 24 hours.’ ”
Albert plans to go to his country retreat, Roc Agel, on Tuesday, where his wife Princess Charlene and 5-year-old twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella have remained while he self-isolated in their palace apartments.
“The house there is big enough that I can isolate. We have an extra bedroom at the end of the hall and the kids are in rooms downstairs,” he said.
Under doctor’s orders, “I’m going to be taking it a little easier. The only meetings I’m going to have will be video conference calls,” he added.
Over the next few weeks, his schedule has largely “been canceled,” he shared. “I’m not committed to any public appearances or trips or anything like that for the next month.”
The prince says he can’t wait to see his family. While he has been in isolation, they found ways to stay in contact.
“We FaceTimed — usually in the evenings. We told stories and talked about what we did during the day,” he said. “I told [the twins] to be safe. They knew I was sick and that I had to stay away.”
“I’m hoping I get a ‘Welcome Home’ banner,” he added with a laugh.
The royal kept plenty busy during his self-isolation — although he never got around to reading any books.
“No,” he said with a laugh. “I read a lot of work papers, some old magazines and some newspapers, but I was shocked at how fast the days went by and how busy I was answering phone calls from family and friends and calls to the government to keep the country running.”
“I kept the news channels on,” he added. “I did some exercise — mostly walks in the garden.”
While he already shut down rumors that that he could have caused Prince Charles’s positive coronavirus diagnosis after they both attended the same event in London earlier this month, he expressed concern that Charles may have ended his own self-isolation on Monday too soon.
“I think that’s a little bit adventurous, if I may say,” he said. “He was only diagnosed seven days ago. When you are tested positive, you have to stay isolated for 14 days. As a confinement measure for others, you can be with your family or a restricted group of people, but you can’t go out and run the risk of infecting others.”
(Prince Charles‘s self-isolation lasted seven days in accordance with U.K. government and medical guidelines. Charles is now operating under the current standard government and medical restrictions that apply across the U.K. regarding social distancing and only leaving the home for essential needs.)
Thinking beyond the crisis, Albert remains optimistic.
“I’m pretty certain a lot of positive is going to come out of all of this,” he said. “Different ways of operating and different ways of addressing different issues and especially I think in most countries where healthcare was not a priority, I think that’ll change drastically. I think that there will be more attention to planning for different pandemics, which we’ll see in the future.”
The pandemic “can only enhance people’s attention to nature,” he adds. “We can feel there’s already more of a sense of solidarity. Basic attention to our natural surroundings and how we should keep eco systems healthy because that’ll keep us healthy. If that can come out of all of this then that I’ll be very positive for the future.”
With the end of his isolation, he is prepared to resume head of state functions in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
“We’re not near the peak yet in Monaco,” he said. “We have some models, which show it’ll be within the next 10 days or so.”
“We’re okay for now on supplies and should be getting more tests by the end of the week,” he added.
As a five-time participant in the Olympic Games (he competed in the bobsleigh event) and a member of the IOC board, Prince Albert is uniquely positioned to appreciate the impact of rescheduling the Tokyo event.
“Way before the decision was taken, I had a phone conversation with (Olympics President) Thomas Bach,” he said, expressing his approval of the Games postponement.
“I think basically it’s the right decision. There was very little room to maneuver and the pressure was mounting. Realistically, there was no way the Games could have taken place on their scheduled date.
“Of course it not without financial and logistical complications, but I think those can definitely be overcome. But at some point you have to put the health of the athletes and of officials and spectators and everyone else involved in the Games first.
In the face of the pandemic, Monaco has canceled its entire spring season, including the Bal de la Rose , the Formula One Grand Prix and the Spring Arts festival — in addition to a score of forums, symposiums and conventions.
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“It’s going to be a pretty sizable hit and we’re looking at different stimulus packages for businesses, large and small, to recoup, but it’s going to be a very difficult period,” he said. “Whenever the confinement does end, we can’t just open the floodgates and let everyone out on the streets again. That’s going to come up in the next few days when we’ll have conversations about it. But at some point, everybody is going to have to be tested to see if they’re okay.”