(CNN) — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will not travel to Sandringham for Christmas and will instead celebrate at Windsor Castle, a Buckingham Palace source told CNN on Monday, as the new Omicron coronavirus variant surges in the United Kingdom.
In a typical year, the Queen travels to her country estate of Sandringham, a sprawling 20,000-acre estate around 100 miles north of London, for the family’s annual Christmas retreat.
But in recent weeks the palace has been taking added precautions due to coronavirus, including canceling a pre-Christmas lunch the monarch typically hosts for extended family.
The UK is in the grips of a new surge in Covid-19 infections, driven by Omicron.
The country has recorded more than 80,000 new cases every day since Friday. On Monday, 91,743 new Covid-19 cases were reported, the second-highest figure since the beginning of the pandemic, according to government data.
This will be the Queen’s first holiday season since the death of Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years. He passed away in April at the age of 99.
Festival celebrations were canceled last year while the country was in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic and households were prohibited from mingling to curb transmission of the virus. The Queen remained at Windsor with Prince Philip and a small bubble of staff.
When the Queen scrapped her pre-Christmas gathering last week, a Buckingham Palace source told CNN the decision was a precautionary one as it was felt the lunch would put too many people’s Christmas arrangements at risk if it went ahead.
Her annual, pre-recorded Christmas Day speech is still expected to be broadcast as planned.
Unlike Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, Sandringham is the Queen’s privately owned house. Because of space issues, invitations to Christmas are usually only extended to immediate family. But the Queen has from time to time made notable exceptions, such as when she welcomed the then Meghan Markle to the estate before she wed Prince Harry.
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