Prince Charles and Camilla Attend First Outing Since Lockdown and Royal Duty Looks Different Now

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall spent Tuesday morning with hospital keyworkers and frontline staffers about 25 miles from their Gloucestershire home

Charles and Camilla/PA
Photo: PA Images

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are back on royal duty — with a social-distancing twist.

The couple spent Tuesday morning in Gloucestershire, where they met essential workers who have been working on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic.

The royals were on hand at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital to express their thanks for keeping the healthcare and its emergency services going throughout the crisis.

They spent around 30 minutes meeting around 20 healthcare workers in the hospital grounds. Strict social distancing was in place following the U.K. government guidelines. Staff stood around 6 feet apart in lines on a grassy bank so they could chat to the royal couple.

Royal visit to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles. PA Images

Welcomed by chief executive of the local hospital trust, Deborah Lee, the royal couple met volunteers and various healthcare professionals including clinicians, clinical psychologists, members of the domestic team, senior biomedical scientists, junior doctors, and some of the social work team.

Charles, 71, contracted COVID-19, which has killed more than 40,000 people in the U.K., in March, though he says he had "mild symptoms."

The couple traveled south from their home, Birkhall, in the Highlands of Scotland, where they had been isolating since mid-March.

Tuesday's visit is the first of several public engagements for the couple this week. On Thursday, they are set to host French President Emmanuel Macron in a special ceremony at their London residence, Clarence House.

President Macron is in London to officially celebrate the 80th Anniversary of General de Gaulle’s "Appel" — when he urged the French population to resist the German occupation of his country during World War II.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall
PA Images

Charles and Camilla's move south shows that formal public royal engagements are gradually beginning to resume. The royal couple and those attending Thursday's ceremony will be adhering to social distancing guidelines, a royal source tells PEOPLE.

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Soon after he arrived in Scotland in mid-March, Charles had to self-isolate for seven days after he tested positive for COVID-19. Camilla, 72, also had to stay in another part of their Scottish home. The Queen's eldest son said he only had "mild" symptoms and was able to keep in touch with his charities and other work via phone and video calls. Many of those have been to healthcare workers and in support of those fighting the pandemic. One of those was to virtually open the temporary field hospital in Cardiff, Wales, in April, while the Duchess spoke about missing contact with grandchildren, when she made a call to support volunteers.

Meanwhile, Charles's sister Princess Anne was out in the same county of Gloucestershire for her first face-to-face engagement, visiting the Duke of Gloucester Barracks to meet and talk to soldiers who have been involved in COVID-19 operations.

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