Queen Elizabeth II has canceled a pre-Christmas family lunch as a precaution because of a surge in Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom, a source at Buckingham Palace told CNN on Thursday.
According to the source, the decision is a precautionary one as it is felt the lunch would put too many people’s Christmas arrangements at risk if it went ahead.
While there is “regret” that the lunch has been canceled, the source added, there is a belief it is “the right thing to do” for all concerned.
The 95-year-old monarch usually hosts the annual event for her extended family in the lead up to Christmas at Buckingham Palace.
Last year’s gathering was also canceled because of the pandemic.
Plans were believed to have been in place for the Christmas lunch at Windsor Castle next Tuesday, according to PA Media.
In previous years, the Queen has invited her wider family to join her at her London residence before departing to Sandringham in Norfolk, where she hosts immediate family over the festive period.
The monarch’s main residence these days is Windsor Castle, just outside of London.
This year is the Queen’s first Christmas since the death of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, in April.
The decision to cancel this year comes after strong warnings by England’s chief medical officer about the spread of the Omicron variant, calling on people to be careful so that Christmas could be preserved.
Professor Chris Whitty said people should “prioritise what matters to them” when considering attending parties and other events during the Christmas period.
The Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading at a rate not seen with previous variants, according to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
And officials in Britain say the country is facing a “tidal wave” of infections from Omicron. The strain has become dominant in London, outcompeting the previous Delta variant.
On Monday, the UK reported its first death from the variant, and on Wednesday it reported 78,610 new cases of the coronavirus – the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began.
The previous record of daily new infections was 68,053 on January 8.
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