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Queen Elizabeth cancels traditional Christmas plans amid omicron surge

The monarch will remain at Windsor, where she has spent much of the pandemic.
Queen Elizabeth Attends The Opening Of The Scottish Parliament
Queen Elizabeth II in Edinburgh, Scotland, in October.Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

LONDON — Many in the United Kingdom are hoping to have a relatively normal Christmas this year despite the raging Covid-19 pandemic, but its most famous resident has already changed her traditional plans.

Queen Elizabeth II will not spend the festive period at the Sandringham estate in eastern England, a senior Buckingham Palace source said Monday, as cases of the highly contagious omicron variant continue to spread.

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Instead, the monarch, 95, will remain at Windsor Castle, about 25 miles west of London, where she has spent most of the pandemic. It is the second consecutive year she has canceled her usual trip to the Sandringham estate, as well as a traditional family lunch.

The royal family has for years spent the holidays at Sandringham, in Norfolk in eastern England, where crowds gather to watch them attend the local church on Christmas Day.

Britain is in the midst of a huge Covid infection spike, with 584,000 positive cases reported in the last week, a 63 percent increase on the previous seven days, according to official figures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday more new restrictions may be needed to combat the rise — but he stopped short of repeating the 2020 Christmas lockdown that forced many to cancel plans at the last minute.

"We will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, and to protect public health and the NHS [National Health Service], and we won't hesitate to take that action," he said.

The queen has cut down on travel and work since spending a night in the hospital in October and being told to rest by her doctors. She has since undertaken light duties including virtual audiences with diplomats and weekly conversations with the prime minister.

This is the queen’s first Christmas since the death of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, in April at 99. The royal couple spent their final Christmas together at Windsor last year.