Queen thanks business for virus generosity

The Queen has thanked businesses across the world for their response to the coronavirus pandemic and work to rebuild communities as they begin to reopen after lockdowns.

"As many organisations around the country are reopening, I send my warmest best wishes and support to business communities throughout the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and across the world," Queen Elizabeth said in a message to the British Chambers of Commerce.

"At a time of great difficulty for many, it is heartwarming to see the civic response and generosity of so many businesses, small and large, to the challenges posed, whether supporting the health sector or vulnerable communities."

Britain's economy has taken a pounding by the government's lockdown from March which shut all non-essential retailers, with figures on Friday showing public borrowing had hit a record high and debt had passed 100 per cent of economic output.

However, there was some brighter news for the retail sector with sales rebounding much more strongly last month than expected.

"I wish all businesses every success in their endeavours in the weeks and months ahead," the Queen said.

Meantime, the Duchess of Cambridge revealed most of her trips outside her home had been to shop for food, as she carried out her first public engagement since lockdown began.

Kate toured Fakenham Garden Centre on Thursday near her Norfolk home of Anmer Hall and, as a keen gardener, wanted to learn how the coronavirus outbreak had affected the family-run independent business.

She told owners Martin and Jennie Turner she loved coming to garden centres with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

"They love it," she said with a smile, adding: "It's such a great space for children and families to come to garden centres.

"I've been food shopping but I have to say I haven't been out a huge amount more but it's good and so important, now as things start to ease, people know they can go out and particularly to places like this."

The Cambridges have spent much of the lockdown at Anmer Hall with their children and, while unable to attend their usual royal events, have been holding virtual visits to care centres and hospitals via video calls.

Kate also said she and William had found the social effects of the pandemic unsettling: "When we do our food shopping, we notice that everyone keeps their head down and it's hard for that social interaction."

Kate's trip to the garden centre was followed by the Duke of Cambridge visiting Smiths the Bakers on Friday, which has been serving King's Lynn for 50 years and reopened their premises on Monday after 11 weeks in lockdown.

PA