London, United Kingdom — Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday hosted Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Buckingham Palace in London for the pair’s first weekly in-person audience since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Queen, 95, has received prime ministers for weekly audiences throughout her long reign and has kept in touch with Johnson by phone since March last year when the first lockdown measures were imposed.
The monarch also spoke with the prime minister in-person when she met with world leaders at the UK-hosted G7 summit in Cornwall in southwest England earlier this month.
But the return of the face-to-face meeting, during which the Queen wore a lilac dress, was seen as a return to normality at her official residence, in central London.
At the start of the pandemic, the Queen retreated to Windsor Castle west of London with her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip.
The royal household dubbed the social distancing arrangement designed to protect the elderly royals “HMS Bubble”.
According to reports, following the death of Philip in April, the Queen will now spend the majority of her time at the Berkshire residence.
The first in-person presentation of investiture awards also took place on Thursday, in a scaled-down ceremony at nearby St James’s Palace by her eldest son and heir Prince Charles.
The 32 recipients wore face coverings, there was no audience present and those being given awards were limited to one guest each.
The return to relative normality came despite rising levels of coronavirus cases in Britain, driven by the a new Delta variant of the disease, first identified in India.
On Wednesday government statistics recorded just over 16,000 cases in the last 24 hours — up more than 5,000 on Tuesday in the highest daily increase since February.
There were 19 further deaths, bringing the UK’s total death toll to more than 128,000 since the start of the pandemic.