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The traditional Christmas Day walkabout by the Royal Family will likely be cancelled this year due to fears over the Omicron variant, close sources have suggested
As the new Covid-19 strain spreads rapidly across the country, the Queen will be advised to close the gates of her private grounds on Norfolk's Sandringham estate, where she usually spends the festive season.
Thousands of royal watchers usually gather to greet her and her family as they walk around the estate on Christmas Day, with queues of eager royalists starting to form as early as 2am.
But now, royal staff say they "fully expect" public access to be denied, to protect both royals and members of the public from the threat of Covid-19.
Sources say while visitors may still be allowed on the estate, the famous footpath will be locked down.
The source said: “Of course everyone would love everything back to normal – but the situation is anything but.”
If the walkabout is cancelled this year, it will be for the second year in a row it has been scrapped due to Covid-19.
Last year, the monarch spent Christmas Day shielding with Prince Philip at Windsor Castle, without the rest of the family.
Buckingham Palace insisted that all the Queen’s plans for Christmas were still under discussion.
Well-wishers hope to offer Her Majesty their Christmas greetings, and vie for the chance to shake hands with her family, including Prince Charles and Camilla and William and Kate.
On Wednesday she is due to go by helicopter from Windsor to Sandringham – but palace insiders say plans are “still in the balance”.
After Prince Philip’s death in April aged 99, all four of her children have promised to make sure she is not alone this Christmas, wherever she spends it.
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Prince Charles and Camilla, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward have agreed to limit social contact so they can safely join her. The Queen’s grandson Prince William and wife Kate are doing the same.
One alternative being closely examined by courtiers is for the Queen to remain at Windsor and be joined by family there.
She has spent much of the pandemic at the castle, and a secure Covid-19 bubble is already in place there – with dozens of loyal staff who have stayed alongside Her Majesty.
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The Queen has already cancelled a pre-Christmas party for her extended family at Windsor due to the surge of the Omicron variant in recent weeks.
She had been planning to welcome around 50 relatives on Tuesday.
If the family’s more intimate Christmas gathering takes place at Sandringham, officials hope to allow a socially distanced media presence to beam out pictures of their stroll to St Mary Magdalene Church for the 11am service.
The advice to limit access came as the UK reported more than 93,000 new Covid cases in another daily record on Friday.
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Although the Government still hopes to avoid last year’s heavy restrictions, Chief Medical Adviser Prof Chris Whitty has urged the public not to “mix with people you don’t have to”.
He warned more Covid records would be broken as Omicron surges.
A Government spokesman said: “The Government will continue to look closely at all the emerging data and we’ll keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant.”
- Prince Philip
- Prince William
- Royal Family
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