LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas family lunch next week, reports said Thursday, as coronavirus cases surge in Britain.
The 95-year-old monarch, who has cut back on her engagements since an overnight hospital stay in October, is understood to have made the decision as a precaution.
Buckingham Palace was yet to formally confirm the move, but sources told several UK media outlets that the annual event had been axed for a second consecutive year owing to the pandemic.
She was forced to cancel the family party last year because of strict rules on social distancing and indoor mixing.
The queen usually hosts her extended family – including her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as cousins – at the palace in the run-up to Christmas.
This Christmas is her first since the April death of Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years.
The queen, who is fully vaccinated, resumed royal duties earlier this year following the funeral and official mourning period for Philip.
But her hospital stay raised fears for her health and prompted doctors to advise rest.
She has been taking on only light duties, palace officials said, including online meetings.
Britain is facing a huge wave of infections from the Omicron strain of COVID-19, prompting the government to impose some new restrictions and warnings about social gatherings.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stopped short of telling people to cancel parties, instead recommending booster jabs and frequent testing.
"It's entirely a matter for the royal family," his spokesman said when asked about the monarch curtailing her event.
"The prime minister has been very clear about the need for the public to be to be cautious."