Matt Hancock predicts normality can return 'after Easter'
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The 94-year-old monarch has ruled out making a public appearance with her family on Easter Sunday, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, even though many churches are open for worship. Last year when churches were closed only three weeks after the first coronavirus lockdown had begun there was no choice and so instead, for the first time ever, she recorded an audio Easter message to help fortify the nation. But this year there will bo Easter message or public appearance.
“The overriding concern is to avoid crowds gathering. If we said she was going to church the risk is that there would be a crowd,” a royal source said.
The Queen, who has spent most of the last year with Prince Philip and a small group of aides in a bubble at Windsor Castle, is expected to worship privately either in her personal chapel inside the castle or another chapel on the royal estate at her Berkshire home.
Easter Sunday is one of only two days that she takes off each year – the other is Christmas Day – from at least her basic duties of going through her red boxes of state papers.
Normally she presides over a family gathering at Windsor and is accompanied to St George’s Chapel inside the castle grounds by a large group of her family.
St George’s does not officially open again to the public until May 17 but it is understood there is a service on Sunday soley for castle residents. Another option is the tiny All Saints Chapel, close to Prince Andrew’s Royal Lodge home on the estate.
Under the Government’s rules, places of worship are open but with social distancing measures and since Sunday singing is allowed in the church grounds and a small group of singers may now sing indoors.
But many churches have decided to remain open only for online services for the time being.
Even a discreet church service and the first relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions this year may make a normal Royal Family reunion over the Easter weekend difficult.
Aides have pointed to the Rule of Six and the restriction to two households, saying that although she could in theory enjoy a meeting with a small group of her family in the grounds of the castle, there can be no traditional gathering of the Windsor clan.
The head of state, who is expected to celebrate her 95th birthday quietly on April 21, should be due her second Covid vaccination this week, 12 weeks after she and Prince Philip had their first jab on January 9.
Palace officials have declined to discuss when she and other members of the Royal Family were getting their second inoculations but sources close to the family have suggested they would stick to the guidelines for their age groups and the stipulation that the second one should be within 12 weeks which falls on April 3.
The Queen can at least start to look forward to a few more in-person engagements in the near future, as restrictions ease and more people have vaccinations. But she still has to be careful of arranging events that involve larger groups and that could spread the virus.
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