The monarch greeted Sri Lankan High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and her husband, Dr Sudath Talpahewa, in the 1844 room at her royal residence. The Queen was not wearing gloves, but, unlike her audiences last week, there was no handshaking during the brief meeting. Ms Sirisena handed over her credentials, which the Queen received, and Dr Talpahewa bowed to the head of state from a distance as he was introduced.
Audiences are brief, one-on-one meetings with the Queen which happen regularly throughout her working week, and she usually greets guests with a handshake.
Tuesday’s audience was held the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was told not to shake hands with dignitaries including the Queen at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey over coronavirus fears.
Mr Johnson said the move sent a “subliminal cue” about the importance of hygiene.
Guests at the Commonwealth Service – the last appearance by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as senior royals – adopted a range of greetings to get around the handshake ban.
The Prince of Wales opted for a namaste, while Harry bumped elbows with musician Craig David, and Meghan decided to hug the 7 Days singer.
The Queen and other senior royals were following the protocol the Abbey has been operating under during the past few weeks.
Mr Johnson was pictured at the event clasping hands with heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua despite the advice.
The Prime Minister said: “We were all given an instruction not to shake hands and there’s a good reason for not shaking hands, which is that the behavioural psychologists say that if you don’t shake somebody’s hand then that sends an important message to them about the importance of washing your hands.
“So there’s a subliminal cue there to everybody to wash your hands, which is, I think I’m right in saying … far more important.”
Handshaking is “a matter for individual choice” but much less important than washing, he added.
Mr Johnson, who attended the event with his pregnant fiancee, Carrie Symonds, had previously said he was “shaking hands with everybody” despite concerns about the spread of the virus.
When the Duke of Cambridge arrived at the service he joked with Lord Howell, chairman of the Council of Commonwealth Societies, about the protocol to avoid spreading germs.
“It’s very odd not shaking hands, I try my best to hold my hands like that,” William said, laughing, as he clasped them together and held them against his waist.
And when he chatted to Joshua, who is 6ft 6in, the duke avoided shaking hands, quipping: “I feel you’d crush mine.”
On March 3, the Queen opted to wear long white gloves as she carried out an investiture at Buckingham Palace.
It was believed to have been the first time the monarch had done so at a palace investiture.
The Queen turns 94 next month, and the risk of more severe symptoms from the Covid-19 illness is greater for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has said the death rate for people infected with coronavirus is “significantly ramped up” among those over the age of 80.
Published at Tue, 10 Mar 2020 14:13:00 +0000