Why did Prince Charles and Camilla get tested for coronavirus? Anger as royals are checked – despite NHS saying ONLY hospital patients will be screened
- Charles, 71, was given a nasal swab by NHS Grampian staff in Aberdeenshire
- His wife Camilla, 72, was also tested despite showing no symptoms at all
- NHS website says people only meet testing criteria if symptoms are severe
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The Prince of Wales, 71, was diagnosed with the killer virus yesterday and is now self-isolating at home on the Balmoral estate in Scotland.
He is thought to have been tested via a nasal swab by NHS Grampian staff at the royal residence in Aberdeenshire, despite only showing mild symptoms.
His wife Camilla, 72, was also swabbed, even though she had no symptoms. But she produced a negative result and has now separated herself from her husband.
NHS Scotland’s website states that, in general, tests are only to be given out if patients ‘have a serious illness that requires admission to hospital’ – which is in line with the criteria in the rest of the UK.
It means that even NHS staff suffering tell-tale symptoms of the virus are not entitled to a test.
The news has sparked fury on social media, with politicians, celebrities and members of the public accusing health chiefs of giving the royals ‘special treatment’.
But Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, has said she is satisfied Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were tested for ‘clinical reasons’ and ‘met the criteria’ for a swab.
Question have been raised after Prince Charles and Camilla were tested for coronavirus despite thousands of NHS workers and sick Brits being denied a swab
News that Prince Charles was tested despite showing mild symptoms sparked fury on social media, with many accusing the royals of jumping the queue
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are both over 70 – the age group told to take social distancing particularly seriously. But neither of the royals are believed to have underlying health conditions.
WHO IS CURRENTLY BEING TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS ON THE NHS?
In the UK routine tests are only given to people so ill they have to go into hospital, or those who are already on wards – even NHS staff don’t get tested.
It means the official tally of around 8,000 coronavirus patients is much lower than the reality.
The NHS website says people will only generally be tested for COVID-19 ‘if they ‘have a serious illness that requires admission to hospital’.
Charles and Camilla are deemed high risk of serious complications of the virus because they are over the age of 70.
But their age alone does not qualify them for a test – patients have to be showing severe symptoms.
Scotland’s CMO Calderwood said she had contacted the team involved in testing Charles and was satisfied for their reasoning.
She added: ‘From the information I have been given it was clear he was tested for clinical reasons.’ She did not say why Camilla was tested.
Joan McAlpine, SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, tweeted that she wishes Charles a speedy recovery, but added: ‘Given that his symptoms are said to be mild, like many I wonder how he was tested when many NHS and social care workers cannot get tested.
‘My nephew, who has serious asthma and a chest infection was recently refused a test.’
English actor David Schneider also wished the prince well but said it showed that NHS staff were not important enough to test.
British writer James Felton tweeted: ‘It would be nice if the people working in the NHS coming into contact with hundreds of people could get tested as easily as a man who has an actual palace to self-isolate in.’
Radio 4 Today Programme host Nick Robinson said there was ‘real anger’ felt by many that Prince Charles and Camilla jumped the queue ahead of NHS workers.
Daisy Steinhardt wrote: ‘Why does Prince Charles, who has mild symptoms, qualify more for a highly sought after COVID-19 test than, I don’t know, a healthcare worker? Of course during a *literal* pandemic the 1 per cent get special treatment.’
A woman called Gemma Byrne tweeted her fury on behalf of her sister, who is a NHS doctor.
She said: ‘My sister, a doctor, has been self-isolating for 9 days. She only managed to get tested 2 days ago and just found out it’s not COVID19.
‘If she’d been tested on day 1 the NHS wouldn’t have been down a doctor for a week.
‘Wonder how long Prince Charles had to wait for his test?
A man called Scott from Aberdeen added: ‘Wife’s a nurse, daughter suspected coronavirus.
‘NHS won’t test as ‘not serious’. Wife had to self-isolate from work for 2 weeks as can’t say if is, or isn’t.
‘We live in Aberdeen. Cant be only ones in same situation. Clearly one rule for the rich and another for us plebs.’
Another man called Matt commented: ‘ Can somebody enlighten me to why Prince Charles is entitled to a Covid-19 test but my fiancee who works for the NHS isn’t?!
‘Now she has to isolate for 7 days and i have to for 14. If she was tested and it was negative we could both return to work!’
Prince Charles had been continuing to attend his public engagements despite the coronavirus crisis – but heavoided shaking hands. Here he uses a namaste gesture instead at the Commonwealth Reception in London on March 9
Charles was last seen with the Queen on March 9 at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey and saw her again on March 12 – 24 hours before his doctor claims he became contagious
A Royal Family spokesman said Charles and Camilla were tested on the NHS in Aberdeenshire as ‘they met the criteria required for testing’.
But the NHS Scotland website says people will only generally be tested for COVID-19 ‘if they ‘have a serious illness that requires admission to hospital’.
Scotland’s CMO Calderwood said she had contacted the team involved in testing Charles, adding: ‘From the information I have been given it was clear he was tested for clinical reasons.’ She did not say why Camilla was tested.
NHS CLAIMS IT COULD TEST HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS A DAY ‘IN WEEKS’
The NHS could start testing hundreds of thousands of people per day for Covid-19 within a matter of weeks, NHS England’s medical director claims.
Professor Stephen Powis told LBC, the phone-in and talk radio station, that testing is being expanded and there would be more widespread testing of NHS workers in the next few days.
‘We want to get hundreds of thousands of tests ramped up in the next few weeks per day,’ he said.
The Government is coming under intense pressure to increase testing, particularly for frontline NHS staff so those who are negative can get back to work.
Asked to clarify whether he really meant hundreds of thousands of tests per day, Prof Powis said: ‘That’s what we are aiming for.
That is what we want to ramp up to, but remember this is a new virus and we’re starting from scratch.
‘The kits which are required to do this testing are being manufactured as we speak. We are getting those into the country, we are ramping it up.
‘I am talking of hundreds of thousands of tests. All of this is ramping up and increasing as we speak but, yes, you heard me correctly, we need to get to hundreds of thousands of tests a day, and we will do that over the course of the next few weeks and we will be making tests available to NHS staff within the next few days.’
Figures on Tuesday from the Department of Health and Social Care said Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS are expecting to be carrying out up to 25,000 tests per day within the next four weeks.
Capacity will then continue to be ramped up towards 250,000 tests per day, according to the department.
Over-70s are among those most at risk of suffering serious complications as a result of the virus, which has killed 424 and infected 8,000 more in the UK so far.
But the Prince of Wales, who turned 71 in November, should be protected because of his healthy diet and lifestyle, according to one doctor, Dr Sarah Brewer.
She warned that he must avoid his royal relatives not living in the same household, adding that the ‘same rules apply to everyone’.
The heir to the throne fell ill a fortnight after meeting coronavirus-stricken Prince Albert of Monaco (March 10), who tested positive five days ago.
He was last at Buckingham Palace on March 12 for investitures, where he ‘briefly’ saw the Queen, 93.
His illness will raise fears for the health for elderly royals including his mother and Prince Philip, who are together at Windsor Castle.
William and Kate are at Anmer Hall in Norfolk, while Harry and Meghan are back in Canada.
Until he fell ill, Charles has been continuing to carry out public engagements despite the coronavirus crisis – but has avoided shaking hands, instead using a namaste gesture.
But despite avoiding close contact with people he has caught Covid-19 – and it came days after a member of Buckingham Palace staff tested positive for coronavirus.
The Royal Family appeared to have already prepared for the eventuality that one of them could be diagnosed with coronavirus, having been split up across Britain – away from London.
A Clarence House spokesman said: ‘The Prince of Wales has tested positive for Coronavirus. He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.
‘The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus. In accordance with Government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland’.
The spokesman said it was impossible to say where he caught it from because of the large number of public engagements he has carried out in ‘recent weeks’ – but it will raise questions over whether he got it from Albert and if he has spread it himself.
March 10: Charles (left) sat across from Prince Albert of Monaco at an event in London on March 10 – Albert tested positive on March 20 but Charles’ team say it is impossible to know how he caught it after a flurry of public engagements this month
March 9: Charles also stood close to his children and his wives on March 9 at Westminster Abbey, before he is said to have been contagious. William and Kate are at Anmer Hall in Norfolk, while Harry and Meghan are back in Canada.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT PRINCE CHARLES’ MEDICAL HISTORY?
The Prince of Wales Prince Charles‘s medical history isn’t publicly known – but he has had a catalogue of injuries over the years.
Concerns for his health were sparked in November when he was pictured with swollen hands and feet on the first day of his royal tour in India.
As he removed his shoes to step into a Sikh temple in New Delhi, the 70-year-old’s fingers and toes were red and swollen.
Swollen feet can have many causes, among them gout and diabetes – but there is no suggestion Prince Charles has any of them.
Often swelling is caused by a build-up of fluid, which may happen as a result of spending too long sitting, such as on long-haul flights.
Charles has hurt his back several times over the years in falls from horses and ponies. He had a slipped disc in 1991 and broke a rib in 1998.
The Prince of Wales also needed keyhole surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee in 1998. He had the surgery on his left knee years earlier.
All those years of wear and tear took their toll on Charles’s legs, and in 1998 he needed keyhole laser surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee.
A royal source said Charles’ doctor’s most conservative estimate was that the prince was contagious on March 13 – 24 hours after he last saw his mother.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman has said: ‘Her Majesty The Queen remains in good health. The Queen last saw The Prince of Wales briefly on the morning of March 12 and is following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare’.
Charles’s last public engagement was on March 12, but he did have a number of private meetings with Highgrove and Duchy individuals, all of whom have been made aware.
His test result comes after the Government announced it had bought 3.5million coronavirus antibody tests – but has refused to reveal who makes them, when they will be available on the NHS or if they can be used at home.
Britain has repeatedly been slammed for its lacklustre approach to the crisis after testing just 5,000 people each day and allowing hundreds of thousands to roam the streets undiagnosed.
South Korea, the only country outside of China to flatten the outbreak’s curve, has been conducting three times more daily tests despite having a population of 50million, compared to Britain’s 66million.
NHS England’s medical director today warned testing must be ramped up to hundreds of thousands per day in the coming weeks to catch up with the crisis.
In the UK routine tests are only given to people so ill they have to go into hospital, or those who are already on wards – even NHS staff don’t get tested.
It means the official tally of coronavirus patients (8,077) is much lower than the reality.
The new antibody tests are thought to use a lateral flow device (LFD) which takes a drop of blood by a finger prick and a colour develops if the patient is positive.
The test looks for antibodies, the immune system’s defence mechanism, which are produced to fight off the killer virus.
They work like an at-home pregnancy test and take just minutes to produce a result.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
What is the coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.
However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.