The Prince of Wales tested positive for COVID-19 in March, sparking widespread speculation about where he caught it from. It was suggested that he may have caught it from Prince Albert II of Monaco, who he sat opposite at a WaterAid event in London on March 10, nine days before the foreign prince tested positive. On March 25, Clarence House announced Charles tested positive for coronavirus and was experiencing “mild symptoms”, while Camilla tested negative.
There were suggestions that Camilla could have passed it onto her husband after catching it herself at Cheltenham Festival on March 10-13, but remaining asymptomatic.
However, it was also deduced that it could have gone the other way; that Camilla could have caught the virus from Charles and then passed it onto people at Cheltenham.
The famous horse racing event has come under fire as it was allowed to still go ahead in the week before Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a nationwide lockdown, despite warnings that large gatherings help spread the virus.
However, Camilla, who attended the event along with her ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles – who later had symptoms of coronavirus – and Princess Anne, was almost certainly not a so-called “super spreader” according to an expert.
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Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, attended Cheltenham Festival in March
Crowds watch the race on Day Four of the Cheltenham Festival
Professor Keith Neil, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nottingham, explained that there are three main reasons why it is unlikely that Camilla spread the disease to many people.
Firstly, he pointed out that Camilla may have never had the virus, given that she tested negative for it.
Secondly, if she did have it, she was asymptomatic and these people are believed to be less contagious.
Thirdly, her security detail means she will have come into contact with fewer people than the average Cheltenham attendee.
Camilla, Duhcess of Conrwall, at Cheltenham Festival 2020
Professor Neil told Express.co.uk: “Contact with a known positive individual is statistically much more likely than contact with someone who may not have been infected and, if so, was asymptomatic.
“This is the statistical probability Camilla was infected, multiplied by the probability she did transmit, which is much lower than the risk of transmission from contact with a known symptomatic person.
“If no other royal household staff were infected, this would further suggest Camilla was not a source of infection.
“If Camilla was tested for antibodies and was found to be negative this would provide more information, but she is well down the queue for antibody testing, as we need the test of key workers.
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Princess Anne and Andrew Parker Bowles at Cheltenham Festival 2020
“I am not overly keen on the term ‘super spreaders’. I would also be very surprised if she did infect a lot of people at Cheltenham, because, and I suspect that her security staff would not have let her mix that widely to infect a lot of people. Certainly not a super spreader.”
The term ‘super spreader’ has been used to refer to people who have caught the virus in one location and then spread it to multiple people in another.
For example, one British man in his 50s contracted coronavirus while at a conference in Singapore, and then travelled to France where he stayed with his family in a ski chalet in Les Contamines-Montjoie.
Five people who were in the chalet then tested positive after travelling back home to their own countries.
While Camilla was likely not the source, plenty of people reported coming down with coronavirus after attending Cheltenham Festival, Andrew Parker Bowles included.
He told The Telegraph: “I’ve felt pretty bloody awful with it. I’ve had a bad cough and I’ve been very lethargic. I’m sleeping twice as long as normal.”
Asked whether he thought the event should have been cancelled, he responded: “To be honest, it was optional whether we went.
“At the time the Underground was running full of people. You can’t blame Cheltenham.
Charles and Camilla laid a wreath on VE Day 2020
“To be fair, attendance was 10 percent down, but I do know quite a few people who picked it up there.”
Camilla was spotted socialising with Andrew and Anne, meaning it is possible Andrew gave it to her and she passed it onto Charles – or, perhaps vice versa
However, Professor Neil insisted “we will never know” who gave it to whom, even with genome sequencing.
Charles has since recovered from his symptoms and both he and the Duchess are out of self-isolation.