Europe

Queen to decide on festive party in next 48 hours

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Her Majesty is taking constant advice from aides over the alarming spread of Omicron. It leaves her traditional festive switch to Sandringham “under review”, with a decision expected in the next 48 hours. Any change of plans would upset the 95-year-old head of state who lost husband Philip, 99, in April.

It could also mean a second successive Christmas away from her Norfolk estate for the Queen.

Last year she was forced to spend the holiday in a Covid-secure bubble at Windsor Castle.

The blow comes as the Royal Family continues to be rocked by the spat between Princes William and Harry and questions over Prince Andrew’s friendship with dead paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew denies any wrongdoing.

The Queen is keen to set a good example to a nation weary after almost two years of fighting the virus, but is desperate to demonstrate life should carry on as normal as is possible.

Her Majesty is waiting on advice from senior aides who are in “constant contact” with government and health officials.

She is due to fly to Norfolk by helicopter on Wednesday, shunning the usual train from King’s Cross to King’s Lynn due to her recent ill health.

A source said: “The Queen and the rest of the family are very mindful that the situation is ever-changing and many thousands of families may also be affected. 

If alternative arrangements need to be made, right up to the last minute, as per Government advice, Her Majesty will lead from the front on such matters.”

The Royal Family has promised to spend Christmas with the Queen, whether in person or remotely, because they do not want to leave her on her own.

Contingency plans include a much smaller gathering at Sandringham or a second successive Christmas at Windsor.

It is understood The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles and Camilla, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Sophie, agree that cancelling plans is preferable to risking anyone’s health.

It comes after the Queen scrapped her annual Buckingham Palace Christmas lunch on Tuesday as Omicron cases surged.

Meanwhile, her annual address is tipped to be Christmas Day’s most-watched programme.

Harry Aitkenhead, of bookmaker Coral, said: “We make her speech odds-on to be the most-watched TV programme.”

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