Queen holds telephone audience with PM despite Covid

The head of state tested positive for the virus on Sunday and cancelled virtual audiences on Tuesday, but spoke with Boris Johnson on Wednesday.

23 February 2022

The Queen has held her weekly telephone audience with the Prime Minister despite having Covid-19, Buckingham Palace said.

The monarch, 95, who tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, cancelled virtual audiences on Tuesday as she continued to suffer from mild cold-like symptoms.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Her Majesty did speak to the Prime Minister this evening.”

Platinum Jubilee – photos
The Queen and PM Boris Johnson in 2019 (Victoria Jones/PA)

There will have been much to discuss during the conversation with Boris Johnson on Wednesday evening, with the Government dealing with the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

Mr Johnson is also embroiled in the partygate saga, with the Metropolitan Police investigating a dozen events, including as many as six which the PM reportedly attended.

The Queen’s advanced age, Covid diagnosis, frailer appearance and recent health scare mean her medical team will be keeping a close eye on her progress, but being well enough to speak to the Prime Minister will be taken as an encouraging sign.

The nation’s longest reigning monarch, who will have been triple vaccinated, recently spent more than three months resting, on doctors’ orders.

In the autumn, she pulled out of attending the Cop26 climate change summit, the Festival of Remembrance and then the Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph service due to a sprained back. She also missed the Church of England’s General Synod.

The Queen now regularly uses a walking stick and has been pictured looking frailer recently.

Audiences at Windsor Castle
The Queen during an audience last week (Steve Parsons/PA)

She remarked during a Windsor Castle audience last week: “Well, as you can see, I can’t move.”

Next week, the head of state has a major engagement on March 2 when she is due to host the Diplomatic Reception and meet hundreds of dignitaries at Windsor.

Mr Johnson is the 14th prime minister of the Queen’s long reign.

The pair have held their weekly audiences – which follow Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons – by telephone for much of the pandemic, with the monarch usually seated in her Oak Room sitting room taking the call on an old-fashioned phone.

But Dominic Cummings – the former chief aide to No 10 – claimed Mr Johnson wanted to visit the Queen in person early during the pandemic despite Downing Street staff already falling ill with virus.

Mr Cummings alleged he had to convince Mr Johnson not to visit the monarch by warning about the potentially grave consequences.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson one year on
The PM on the phone to the Queen in March 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown copyright/Buckingham Palace/PA)

Ultimately Mr Johnson and the Queen switched to holding phone discussions on March 18 2020 as she prepared to socially distance at Windsor, ahead of the first lockdown.

Their first in-person meeting during the pandemic was not until 15 months later on June 23 2021.

In a 1992 documentary filmed to mark her 40th year on the throne, the Queen gave her view on the importance of her meetings with her prime ministers.

“They unburden themselves or tell me what is going on or if they have any problems, and sometimes I can help in some way as well,” she said.

“They know I can be impartial and it is rather nice to feel one is a sponge.

“Occasionally one can put one’s point of view and perhaps they have not seen it from that angle.”

As head of state, the Queen is politically neutral and acts on the advice of her Government in political matters, but her knowledge of politics is immense.

Throughout her reign, she has received weekly briefings from the prime minister of the day, and dozens of government documents pass across her desk every week for formal approval.

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