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The Whistlestop Tour of Northern Ireland marks for the Royals a new normal

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Camilla visit Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, a confidential support facility for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence while Charles toured Henderson Foodservice in Country Antrim to learn more about the challenges that faced the food distributor during the lockdown.

They inspired the nation with their messages of support and praise to key workers during the lockdown and today Prince Charles and Camilla made a surprise visit to Northern Ireland to thank all those who have supported the country during the crisis. The trip comes just weeks after Prince William arrived in Belfast to celebrate Emergency Services Day.

The whistlestop tour marks a return to more traditional royal engagements for the kings. Palace officials say the couple wanted to make the trip to thank the front line workers who supported the Northern Irish population during the vid pandemic.

Among those they met were nurses and midwives who did their training earlier to respond to the virus. The Prince and The Duchess were also keen to show their support for tourism and culture sectors as the industry opens and looks toward recovery in the coming months.

The Prince of Wales also threw a visit to a food and grocery distributor in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic and the unprecedented demand they faced during the lockdown. Panicked shoppers have emptyed the shelves of supermarkets of essentials such as water and toilet paper. The Duchess of Cornwall, a long-time supporter of domestic violence charities in the UK and overseas, also visited a non-profit organization that helps victims of domestic violence.

The trip was secreted until the arrival of the royal couple for security reasons, in accordance with the strategy for royal visits to Northern Ireland. Both Charles and Camilla wore face masks in conformity with government regulations. The Duchess also opted for patriotic colors for Ireland and selected an emerald green coat, a bottle green handbag and a matching dark green face mask. Masks were made by seamstresses whose support was provided through the charitable project Turquoise Mountain Textiles in 2006, which was created by Prince of Wales

On Wednesday, they began their busy schedule at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, where they viewed Florence Nightingale’s exhibition marking their 200th birthday. Here they met a group of nurses and midwives from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust who had qualified from Queen’s University Belfast and Open University in clinical roles to support and respond to the health crisis early. The royals also met museum staff and volunteers to learn about their work in setting up the museum after it was closed for four and a half months and the challenges they continue to face. The museum was one of the first major attractions to open after the lockdown and Charles, a passionate art collector, hung one of Rembrandt’s paintings in the museum as well as a tropical gorge in the nearby Botanic Gardens.

The couple split their programme halfway through the day. While Charles visited Henderson Foodservice in Country Antrim to learn more about the challenges facing the food distributor during the lockdown, Camilla visited Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid which provides confidential support, information and emergency accommodation for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence. The organization is the largest group in Northern Ireland providing 106 emergency beds throughout their three refugee areas and a variety of outreach projects that provide practical and emotional support to vulnerable women.

During the visit Camilla met staff, supporters and service users to hear about the challenges that they had faced in recent months with increasing referrals and how the organization has continued to provide a safe place for people to reach out and get support.

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