Queen cancels annual pre-Christmas family lunch amid Omicron rise

The Queen has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas family lunch planned for next week. It is understood the decision was a precaution, with a Buckingham Palace source suggesting the meal could put too many people’s Christmas arrangements at risk if it went ahead.

Plans were reportedly fully in place at Windsor Castle for next Tuesday’s Christmas lunch, which the 95-year-old monarch hosts each year for her extended family.

Last year’s gathering was also scrapped because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Most years, the Queen invites her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to join her at Buckingham Palace before she departs for her annual Christmas stay at Sandringham.

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The palace is undergoing major renovation works at present. The pre-Christmas celebration gives the head of state a chance to catch up with relatives who are unable to travel to Norfolk for Christmas Day. The wider family is also usually invited, including the Queen’s cousins the Gloucesters, the Duke of Kent and the Michaels of Kent.

The UK recorded the highest number of confirmed new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday since the pandemic began, and England’s chief medical officer warned the situation is likely to get worse as Omicron drives a new wave of illness during the Christmas holidays.The Queen regrets the decision to cancel the gathering, but believes it was the right thing to do, a source said.

Next week marks her first Christmas since the death of Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years. It is currently unclear whether she will spend Christmas Day at Sandringham as she normally does from December to February.