Questions have been raised after Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were tested for coronavirus despite thousands of NHS workers and sick Britons being denied a swab.
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.
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.
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!’
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.
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.
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.