The Queen has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas family lunch as the UK is buffeted by a surge in Omicron cases.
A source told the BBC that it was feared that the annual event, due to take place early next week at Windsor Castle, could put too many people’s Christmas plans at risk.
The 95-year-old monarch’s usually hosts the lunch each year for her extended family – with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren joining her before she departs for her Christmas stay at Sandringham.
Her Majesty’s decision follows Professor Chris Whitty’s warning to prioritise events “that really matter” to avoid the risk of catching Omicron.
And it comes just a day after The Sun hit out at politicians “[losing their] heads over Covid” – and urged Britons to “Keep Calm Like Ma’am” on its front page.
‘Keeping calm and carrying on’
On Wednesday, the newspaper said that the Queen was “keeping calm as Omicron fears engulf the Government and still plans to hold her family Christmas party”.
It claimed that the Queen “boosted the nation’s morale by “keeping calm and carrying on” in the face of fears over the Omicron Covid variant”.
The paper added that moves to cancel the event for the second year “are being resisted” – and said that “there will be wine, crackers and a feast inside the castle with extended family”.
A royal source told the paper: “Currently it is going ahead but obviously it will be under review right up until the last moment.”
Another insider added: “It is Windsor Castle so it will be pretty easy to social distance if needed.
“There is no way the Queen wants to let anything get in the way of a family event like this.
“Particularly with the year she has had after losing her husband and being forced to go on light duties on doctor’s orders.
“It will likely be the first time so many family members have been together since Philip’s funeral.
“But obviously everyone must act responsibly and things can change in a short period of time but as it stands they’re all set for Tuesday.”
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.
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.
This Christmas is the Queen’s first since the death of her husband of 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Queen and Philip spent Christmas Day together at Windsor in 2020, without the rest of the family, after spending most of the year being cared for by a reduced number of staff in what was dubbed HMS Bubble.
She has only been carrying out light duties since October 20 when concerns for her health were heightened after royal doctors ordered her to rest and she spent a night in hospital undergoing tests.